Dock closure is bad news for island festivals

A brief closure of the Mukilteo ferry dock in February and March will not only be an inconvenience to commuters, but possibly a crippling blow to several South Whidbey events.

Washington State Ferries plans to replace several components of the dock, work that will shut the terminal down for a one-week partial closure and two weekend closures. Unfortunately for South Whidbey, those weekend closures coincide with Langley's Mystery Weekend, the Whidbey Island Writers Conference and the Penn Cove Mussel Festival.

The partial closure will take place Feb. 3-7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Traffic will be rerouted to Edmonds. Ferry crossing time between Edmonds and Clinton will be approximately 50 minutes.

The weekend closures are scheduled for Feb. 22-23 and March 1-2. The closures will begin after the 1:05 a.m. Saturday and service will resume with the 4:40 a.m. Clinton to Mukilteo sailing Monday.

Loretta Martin, director of the Langley-South Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday she just found out about the closures. The late notice gives event planners no opportunity to change their dates to work around the shut downs. She said the three affected festivals were planned over a year in advance.

"I'm very frustrated the Washington State Ferries did not contact anyone in the communities," Martin said. "This will dramatically impact the events."

Martin explained bad public relations will reflect on the ferry system, Whidbey Island and the events themselves.

"It's out of our control," said Martin.

Martin said organizations are going to have a hard time getting a hold of event participants. Many event goers won't find out about the closings until they reach the Mukilteo ferry dock.

A public information meeting about the dock closure will be held, Jan. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Fireside Room at Trinity Lutheran Church to answer questions raised by ferry customers.

Schedules for the partial closure and two weekend closures will be available in early January and will be distributed on Clinton-Mukilteo ferries Jan. 14-15.

According to a Washington State Department of Transportation press release, the project will replace existing wood towers with a new structure built around the old. The old towers will be left in place to guide counteweights for the dock ramp. East said the project will minimize costs and the terminal closure time needed.

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