Change a tough thing for Clinton residents

This drawing by Taproot Design, Langley, shows the proposed park at the Clinton landing north of the ferry terminal. Highway 525 is at left. - Taproot Design
This drawing by Taproot Design, Langley, shows the proposed park at the Clinton landing north of the ferry terminal. Highway 525 is at left.
— image credit: Taproot Design

The world is a changing place.

At Tuesday's Port of South Whidbey meeting at the Clinton Progressive Hall, this was the theme for the evening as Port consultants Matthew Swett and Phil Pearl presented a proposal for a park north of the Clinton Ferry Terminal.

Both Swett and Pearl explained the Port's position to the approximately 50 people who attended -- that a community park with public input will be a better than a private enterprise with no public input. The Port has put down $25,000 on a option to buy the Hunziker property next to the ferry terminal and has plans to tear down the commercial building on the land and convert the property into a park and public beach.

Pearl, owner of the Langley land conservation company Open Space Resources, urged attendees to listen to the plans and provide sincere feedback.

"If you create the right place and environment," he assured, "this will work."

Pearl said he doesn't feel the structure currently on the 1-acre property reflects personality of Whidbey Island and it's residents. As the first thing visitors and residents see when disembarking the ferry, he said the building isn't representative of the island.

"This place needs an identity," Pearl said.

Of the approximately 50 people who attended, many introduced themselves as homeowners along Hunziker Lane and Columbia Beach Drive. One of the most vocal residents was Columbia Beach Drive resident Dick Farrow.

Farrow -- who said he lives directly south of the Clinton Ferry Dock -- was concerned about the potential for increased traffic in the neighborhood and wanted to know who will be responsible for patrolling the area. He said he would like a promise from the port that a traffic study will be completed and assurance from them that surveillance will not become the responsibility of residents near the park.

"You gotta help us," said Farrow of Clinton residents who would be affected by a park. "I want it done thoughtfully."

Hunziker Lane resident Julie Bean was concerned park visitors will trespass onto her adjacent yard.

"What's going to stop them from just walking on our properties?" she asked.

Pearl said the same issues will arise from any business in that location, whether it is a parking garage, restaurant or condominium. He said "No Trespassing" signs can be posted, but trespassing will always be a potential problem.

Currently on the plans for the park, there will be five short-term, interim-use parking spaces. Most park visitors will have to use parking spaces in the Port-owned lot near the ferry terminal. That parking lot is 600 feet from the planned park.

Pearl said a lease requirement will require the tenants of a planned concession building to provide litter patrol, as well as watching for potential security problems. The concession, he said, will be the eyes and ears of the park.

For as many questions and potential problems Clinton residents raised, many came simply to give positive comments and show support for a beachfront park.

Elisa Miller, a Simmons Drive resident, said she would be grateful to have a place by the ferry where she could catch a breath of fresh air in a public place. She said she frequently utilizes the public park in Mukilteo next to the lighthouse.

"I'm delighted to have a place to walk," she said.

Clinton resident Winnie Wheeler thought the idea of a park in that location would be a positive asset for the community.

"I think it's a good idea," she said. "I think the locals will use it the most."

Despite his concerns, Farrow was also positive about the potential of the park.

"I really feel like we need to have this place," he said.

Pearl and Swett said they welcome any questions or comments regarding the park. They hope to have neighborhood meetings with the waterfront residents. Pearl urged residents to remain open-minded about the park -- as well as bring any concerns to the Port -- so it can continue to move forward.

"The world is a changing place," said Pearl.

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