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Bush Point tops port priorities

"Gene Sears' top seven list will never compete with David Letterman's top 10 list for humor, but at least this list could lead to some actual lifestyle improvements in the near future.Sears, the senior port commissioner, unveiled his list Wednesday at a special meeting called to discuss project priorities. The port's newly updated comprehensive plan lists 10 possible projects to pursue, but does not provide an order of importance.Sears said his prioritized list was based on items the port can accomplish and pay for in two to three years. First was the Bush Point boat ramp and fishing pier project, which the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has said it will build. But progress has been slow, and the commissioners expressed great frustration.Commissioner Jan Smith revealed the port's growing lack of patience with Fish and Wildlife by saying, If we have to take legal action against them, we will.Sears went on to list projects in Freeland, Maxwelton, Langley and other areas. The other commissioners largely concurred, but there was some disagreement.Commissioner Jim Hawley put a marina in Langley as his number one priority. It's going to take a long time to do it, but I'd like an attempt to get going on it, he said.But Sears noted a big marina of some 250 to 300 slips would be an expensive undertaking. Smith interjected that the port won't proceed with any Langley projects without consulting closely with the City of Langley.The commissioners were working in front of what, for a port meeting, was a large audience of about a dozen people, 10 of them from Clinton.One audience member, Lynae Slinden, is Commissioner Smith's heir apparent. Smith is not running again, and Slinden was the only candidate to file for the position. She will likely take over after the November election.The Clinton contingent argued that the Clinton beach acquisition should be higher on the port's list. We're at the bottom, complained Winnie Wheeler after listening to Sears give his priorities. I feel like an orphan child. Other communities have one. Clinton has no public access to Puget Sound, thanks to Washington State Ferries' dock expansions over the years.Sears made no friends by rhetorically asking, How many beaches do we need?The commissioners all agreed that the Clinton property is too expensive for the port, unless outside assistance is found. Supporters of the project, also including Mike Helland, Larry Webster, Jack Negus and Roger Scott, among others, vowed to try to find outside financial help so the project can be moved up the list.The meeting also put an end to talk about a couple of projects. A large community building at Freeland Park had been discussed, but Sears said that idea is now dead. We don't need it, he said. The possibility of adding a fishing pier at Possession park was also nixed, or at least put far down the list. The park is busy enough, the commissioners agreed.The list of priorities was adopted to allow port consultant Tom Roehl to begin making plans to undertake projects and seek grant funding.But it was emphasized that the projects are not set in stone. This can change in one minute if opportunity presents itself, Roehl said.The port's top 7 listHere are the top seven Port of South Whidbey projects in order of priority.1. Bush Point. Although primarily a state Department of Fish & Wildlife project, the port is obligated to maintain the area and is anxious to get on with boat ramp and fishing pier construction.2. Freeland Park. Envisioned are a walking path to downtown, attractive new facade for the concrete block restroom, land purchase to provide room for a small boat house and more parking, and additional landscaping.3. Maxwelton beach: Improvements to Dave Mackie Memorial Park, including landscaping, utility upgrades, and perhaps a small community hall.4. Mutiny Bay boat launch: Paving and landscaping the parking area to better fit in with the neighborhood.5. Langley park: Redesign and better define the Phil Simon Park parking area.6. Langley Small Boat Harbor: Finish the fishing pier along the top of the breakwater. The pier was cut short for to budgetary reasons when constructed in the '80s.7. Clinton beach: Purchase waterfront property next to the ferry dock if partners can be found to share with the expense. "

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