Port will fund study of a public beach at Clinton

The possibility of a future public beach in Clinton was given oxygen by the Port of South Whidbey commissioners Wednesday.

In front of 17 islanders, an unusually large crowd for a port meeting, the three port commissioners voted unanimously to fund an $8,000 study for establishing a public park on the Kenmir Property next to the Clinton ferry dock.

But the go-ahead did not come without strings attached. Commissioner Gene Sears, who spoke against the idea at the port's Oct. 9 meeting, agreed to OK the study with the caveat that the port will not buy or manage the property for another owner if it does become a park. The commissioners could, if they wished, purchase the property, then turn it over to Island County or another county or state agency.

Sears said he doesn't want to see the port to be financially liable for the property nor does he want to see the port go into debt.

Commissioner Lynae Slinden was obviously disappointed in Sears' qualifying the motion.

"I think it's premature to put limitations on us before all the facts are in. It is short sighted to do that," Slinden said.

Slinden says she believes the port is the right agency to be the lead on the project because the port already has a public pier in front of the property.

"If the result is Clinton gets a beach, no matter which agency is the lead, then we have accomplished what I hoped would happen," Slinden said.

Sears also wanted more information about the feasibility study. The port had requested a proposal for a study from consultant Phil Pearl. Pearl was at the meeting to answer questions about his proposal.

"One of the main purposes of the study is to focus on funding sources that could cooperate with the port in the project," Pearl said.

He said he is looking at other agencies, such as the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District and the Island County Parks Department, to determine if they might lead the acquisition of the beach and building.

Pearl suggested that an on-sight concession stand owner could participate in the maintenance of a park. Other funding possibilities could include the state Interagency Committee on Outdoor Recreation, the state ferry system or federal highway money, he said.

Pearl says he expects to complete the study by the end of the year.

The port has allocated $750,000 in its six-year comprehensive plan to participate in the acquisition of the waterfront property.

Clinton residents were encouraged by the commissioners' decision to approve the study.

"It's a good starting point for the project," Mike Helland said. "It will give us a chance to find other funding sources."

Pearl has worked on several local public projects, including dedicating the Saratoga Woods to Island County and preserving the Goss Lake/Department of Natural Resources Land for recreational purposes.

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