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Myrtle Trail users might walk on water

Pedestrians who walk on the planned Myrtle trail in Freeland next year might also be walking over Freeland's stormwater pipe.

And if commissioners serving the Port of South Whidbey have their way, those walkers will never know that pipe, nor its outfall into Holmes Harbor, is there.

The Myrtle trail, planned to start at the Washington Mutual Bank and travel down Myrtle street to the Freeland Park, may be designed to be built at the same time as a new stormwater collection pipe if the Port -- which is paying for the trail -- and Island County agree to work together.

Port officials want to work with the Island County Public Works to run a new stormwater line for Freeland underneath the trail. At this point, all Port and the county need to agree upon is where the outfall to Holmes Harbor will be.

Lynae Slinden, president of the Port board, said during a recent visit with public works officials to Freeland park "doing the storm drain and the trail at the same time would work for us."

Slinden and two other commissioners from the Port met in February at the Park to determine the best location for a new stormwater outfall.

Currently on the beach near the Freeland Park, the outfall drain has contributed to flooding in the park area this winter. The present outfall on the beach contributes to the flooding problem because it is fairly high and uncovered at high tide, which slows the progress of water flowing out into the harbor.

Slinden said the new outfall is a county project, but since it will be on Port property, the Port wants a say in where and how it will be placed.

During the visit to the park, commissioners were optimistic that they could find a good place for the outfall -- one that does not interfere with beach walkers or to park facilities. The commissioners said there are several possibilities they would consider for the new outfall, which would be a much larger structure than the current outfall pipe.

At a Port meeting in January, Phil Cohen, surface water manager for the Island County Public Works department, said the concrete catch basin for the outfall would be large, measuring up to 10 feet by 20 feet. Though sunk into the ground, the basin would like protrude several feet above ground level.

Slinden said she worries that children will use the outfall as a climbing toy. That was a risk that she said makes her uncomfortable.

"We don't want (the outfall) in the middle of the park," she said.

One of the options Port commissioners discussed was putting the outfall directly underneath the Freeland Park pier. They agreed that would both keep children off of the outfall and from climbing under the dock.

The commissioners also suggested that since the structure could be so large, building a gazebo over the top of it might be a nice idea.

Slinden said integrating an unattractive outfall into a park feature is the ideal, but the county's engineering department has yet to determine the placement of the outfall.

"Those are our preferences," Slinden said. "It's up to the county to decide if it will work."

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