Park to get paved, sheltered

By summer's end, one of South Whidbey's oldest and most unchanging parks will have its gravel parking lots covered with asphalt, shelters built over its picnic tables, new lighting, and possibly the beginnings of some sort of large community building.

These dreams for an updated Dave Mackie Park at Maxwelton Beach started becoming reality Tuesday, nearly seven months after the Port of South Whidbey agreed to put up to $350,000 into improvements at the waterfront recreation area.

Officials from the Port and from the Island County Parks Department agreed during a morning walk-through at the the park that a paving contractor could begin laying asphalt over the two dusty dirt parking lots that have served the facility for decades. Improved lighting, dirt work in the park's bumpy baseball outfield and the construction of two or three small picnic shelters will quickly follow.

Lee McFarland, director of the county's parks department, said the work will be a priority, even though he has 40 other county parks facilities to maintain.

"I'd like to see this get done yesterday," McFarland told Port commissioners and officials, Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton and Maxwelton Community Club member Mike Joselyn during Tuesday's walk-through.

Were it not for the Port's involvement at the park, it is unlikely that much would be happening there this summer. The money for the proposed work comes out of an interlocal agreement between the Port and the county signed in January. Under the agreement, the Port is fronting the cash for improvements on the grounds and building at Dave Mackie Park, while the county's parks department continues to maintain the facility.

Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden said she is pleased the Port can help the parks department, which is strapped for cash like almost every other county department this year. She did, however, express some reticence over building a community hall in the park, a project that came out of requests from some Maxwelton Beach residents at previous Port meetings. She said such a structure may be more than the beach community and South Whidbey need.

"I'm not sure if that's a totally popular item," she said.

Joselyn, who has been one of the hall proponents, said the park does need a building in which to house activities at the beach, activities such as July 4th gatherings, community meetings and picnics after games at the park. During Tuesday's discussion, he did not object to an alternative proposal from McFarland to instead build a large picnic shelter.

McFarland said a shelter would be a better deal and would provide a gathering spot for larger groups than could a hall built on a budget. He also recommended that any new shelter should replace a historic log shelter currently located in the park. That shelter, he said, is in poor repair and recently needed to be stabilized with steel supports.

The improvements to the park will be the first in many years. Other projects that could make it into a comprehensive park improvement plan include repairs to spectator seating behind the baseball diamond, roof repairs on several structures, restroom improvements, and the abandonment of the park's well.

That final item will probably occur shortly after the Maxwelton Beach completes a planned community water system. Joselyn, who is also a member of the water system planning group, said the system is expected to replace the shallow wells that currently serve more than 70 homes and Dave Mackie Park.

Though Island County has not yet gone out for bids on the work in the park, McFarland said he received an $85,000 estimate two years ago for paving the parking lots.

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