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Friends reveal park dreams in port meeting

"Now that they've signed a deal to acquire the property, Friends of Freeland are sharing their vision with the public.The nonprofit group announced Monday that it had agreed to purchase 18 rural acres in the town's commercial zone at the corner of Scott and Newman roads for a nature park and community center. The purchase is contingent upon raising the necessary funds by June 15.More details were presented Wednesday night at the Port of South Whidbey's monthly meeting in Freeland. A drawing of what the property might look like in the future includes a community hall, nature center, arts building, boardwalk and trails.The property presently contains only a single family home and a few outbuildings. Friends representative Herb Hunt told the port commissioners that no other structures will be built until the community shares its vision. All discussion at this point is preliminary.It's a wonderful piece of property with a lot of uses, Hunt said.The land is is described as having five open park-like acres where the existing structures are located, much of it groomed, with large conifers and old fruit trees. Another 13.68 acres is light forest habitat, including three acres of one of the island's crown jewel wetland systems.Gene Sears, port commissioner, asked, What exactly would you like the port to do?Hunt said the group is seeking financial assistance in finalizing the purchase and would even consider shared ownership.Sears noted that the port is pretty rigorously controlled by law, in what projects it can support. Commissioner Jan Smith said transportation and commerce are a port's main concerns.Hunt replied the property could boost business in the community through seminars, computer education classes, wetland classes and the like. It could become a tourism and educational destination, attracting customers to local businesses and bed and breakfasts.We're still discovering what can be done, Hunt said.Another member of the Friends of Freeland, Chet Ross, said that a much more detailed plan will be presented to the port in the near future. Your plan says you can lend support to projects that benefit the community as a whole, he said.During the discussion, it was noted that the port helped the City of Langley promote tourism by helping fund its visitors center and public restrooms.Sears said the Friends provided enough information to include the property in a list of possible projects in the port's new comprehensive plan. It sounds good on the surface, he said.That's all the Friends were asking for Wednesday night. We're kind of like a salesman trying to get a foot in the door, Ross said.Here are some of the ideas for the property submitted to the port:* An arts facility that serves youth and seniors.* A community conference center.* An interpretive nature center.* Meeting rooms or small offices available for lease to community groups.* Picnic area.* Trails connecting to a greater Freeland system.* Pergolas, bird watching, wetland education, and small gardening projects. "

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