Off the Record

"Mickie Hilbert started a small rumble in the jungle with her idea to change Freeland's name. Some islanders have warmed up to the idea, others loathe it. As a non-98249 resident, I don't get to vote. As a columnist, I do. Freeland should be Freeland. Not only for the historical reasons that Merritt Clifton and Jim Jedlica pointed out in their informative letters to the editor last week...but for less intangible things. First off, there's nothing worse than a cutesey name for a town. Take Harbour Pointe over in Mukilteo. Most likely coined by some real estate developers, folks have made fun of the name from its inception. People don't say Harbor Point (like it should be spelled...we're not in Canada, eh?). They pronounce it Har-Boor-Point-E. Secondly, think of the nightmare a name change would be for folks who have businesses with Freeland in their handles: Freeland Barber, Freeland Café, Freeland Chiropractic Health Center, Freeland Clinic, Freeland Lanes, Freeland Mini- Storage, Freeland Pharmacy and Freeland Travel Service. Not to mention the Freeland Chamber of Commerce, Freeland Foursquare Church, Freeland Library, Freeland Visitors Center and the Freeland Water District. That's a lot of letterhead, envelopes and invoices to re-do...and I'm sure it won't be at the name changers' expense. And what about Freeland's fun and funky summer music festival, Freestock? I dunno, Twin Harborstock just doesn't cut it.Freeland has grown up and out over the years. Granted, they could use a bakery, landscaping and some people-friendly sidewalks, but it's got vitality, leadership and thriving businesses...hopefully they'll lambaste the Lynnwoodization of Highway 525 that's encroaching on their front yard. The Freeland Chamber of Commerce has wisely developed a resident-friendly home page on the Internet, including a piece of obscure history. Perhaps the most ambitious and interesting proposal involving Freeland in the early days was the rail/canal proposal. A venture capital group known as The Pennsylvania Syndicate took option on nearly ten thousand acres between Holmes Harbor and Mutiny Bay. Their plan was to construct parallel train tracks and a sea level salt-water canal allowing ships and barges to be towed either direction through the canal between Saratoga Passage and Admiralty Inlet. Today's island curmudgeons, not too secretly, envision digging a similar moat on the north side of Greenbank, to deter the growing pollution of north-south auto, truck and bus traffic.Then there's the fun FAQ section, with such questions as: Who can I call to see if it's possible to make my messy next door neighbors clean up their yard? Answer: Island County Switchboard at 321-5111.Or Where can I buy a fishing license? Answer: ACE Hardware. And my favorite: Where can I go to pick blackberries? Answer: Freeland Park and South Whidbey State Park. Freeland definitely has heart.And what could be better than being in an elite group of only three towns in the U.S. named Freeland? I'd form a sister city triumvirate and generate some publicity! Freeland, Pennsylvania (population 3,909) calls itself The Most Happening Place on Earth! Just look at its list of main attractions: Freeland Public Park; Sorrento's Pizza (One of the most popular corner pizza store/hangouts in all of northeast Pennsylvania. A local hangout for the young and the young at heart. Many legends have been rumored to have eaten and stood on this hallowed ground.); Lou's Deli's World Famous Cheesesteaks; and Chi Chi's Bar at the corner of South and Center Streets for the best 45-cent draft of Yuengling premium beer you ever had...maybe the only 45-cent draft you've ever had! Wow, they like to eat and drink in Freeland kind of town!Freeland, Michigan (population 1,421) boasts six golf courses and is proud of its community spirit, as noted in About Our Town on the city's web page: Freelanders are avid supporters of athletic programs, attending events in large numbers at both home and away games. The Little League baseball players are fierce competitors, while our gymnasts, football players, basketball players and musicians have attained statewide prominence. School organizations offer excellent growth opportunities, while volunteer groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H have been doing an outstanding job for many years.But the tide is shifting in Freeland, Michigan. The environment in and around Freeland is continually undergoing changes, yet, whether by design or desire, the inherent rural nature of the area is being preserved. In Freeland you can still stroll down the road without fear, and enjoy your friends and neighbors or the miracles of nature.Isn't that what Freeland on Whidbey wants? I say keep the name. And keep fighting for your town. Sue Frause can be reached by email at"

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