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Port of South Whidbey makes major land acquisition in 2003

In 2003, the Port of South Whidbey made several moves toward creating public recreation places as well as improvements on Port-owned properties from Bush Point to Clinton.

Here is a review of some of the port district’s big news during the year just ended.

March

The Port of South Whidbey and the Langley City Council hoped that by joining forces, maintenance and improvements can be made on the Langley Small Boat Harbor.

At a Langley City Council meeting in March, the two signed an interlocal agreement which would allow the Port to fund the city as a partner.

According to the draft of the agreement, both Langley and the Port would own and maintain facilities for the public for recreational purposes. The Port will serve primarily in a financing capacity for agreed plans, while Langley will be responsible for implementation and administration.

April

The Port District of South Whidbey announced they would look for a new commissioner after Jim Hawley missed too many meetings.

Hawley, one of just three commissioners, held the No. 2 position since joining the board in 1999. Lynae Slinden, port president, said Hawley had not been to a meeting since Jan. 8.

According to state law, a vacancy in the office of port commissioner can occur after nonattendance at meetings for a period of 60 days, unless excused by the port commission.

Slinden said because of the port’s responsibilities, they cannot function with just two members. It’s unfair to the community, said Slinden, to make decisions for the residents of Whidbey Island based on the opinions of two people.

The port began their search for a new commissioner immediately.

May

Rolf Seitle was chosen to fill the vacant commissioner’s seat for the Port of South Whidbey.

Langley resident Seitle was the best applicant for the position, according to Port President Lynae Slinden. Slinden said Seitle, 74, showed a strong interest in the Langley Small Boat Harbor expansion project.

Seitle had to reapply for his seat for the election in November, where he ran unopposed and retained his position.

Seitle said his last full-time position was as senior vice president of Transdyn Controls Inc., and he remains a consultant for them on a limited basis. He has also worked for Ford Motor Company, Systems Control Inc. and British Petroleum.

Seitle’s public service history includes 12 years as the director of the Skyline County Water District in Woodside, Calif., and four years as president.

July

Port Manager and Planner Tom Roehl, 56, died July 12 after a lengthy illness. He had done project planning and management for the Port of South Whidbey for 23 years.

August

The Port of South Whidbey held a public meeting about the acquisition of the Clinton landing Aug. 5 at the Clinton Progressive Hall.

Phil Pearl, a consultant from the Langley land conservation company Open Space Resources, negotiated with the sellers of the property to come down to $650,000, according to Port President Lynae Slinden.

The Port entered into exclusive option to purchase the Clinton landing from owners Charles and Patricia Kenmir and Conrad and Barbara Hanson, and in December decided to proceed with the purchase.

At the request of South Whidbey residents for a park in Clinton — something missing from the town for decades — the Port intends to remove the existing building and asphalt and create a park.

Future plans on the site narrative include a viewing platform, picnic and beach recreation areas, a small concession and restroom building and areas for storage of bicycles and kayaks.

September

Plans for improvements at Bush Point took a gigantic step forward in September after the Port of South Whidbey received a copy of the permit from Island County, giving permission to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to construct a public boat launch and dock.

Port Commissioner Gene Sears estimated construction could begin at Bush Point as soon as late summer, 2004.

In 1999, the Port entered into an ownership/management partnership with the DFW to operate and manage the Bush Point property once it is completed. Management, maintenance and operation of the new facility will be handled by the Port.

The total cost for the project is approximately $1.7 million, according to Sears, but will come out of the DFW’s pocketbook. He said the DFW receives grants to make such projects possible, and brings the facility to South Whidbey with little or no cost to taxpayers.

Once completed, Sears said Bush Point will have undergone many changes. Before construction can begin the old sling launch system will need to be demolished. The public boat launch and dock will be a convenient place for boaters to launch near great fishing opportunities, and two separate parking lots will give cars and trailers ample room in which to utilize the site, he said.

Also in September the Freeland trail slowly but surely became a walk to the park.

At a Sept. 10 meeting, the Port of South Whidbey learned the Island County Public Works Department received development permits from Island County Planning for a stormwater system which will eventually run under a new trail in Freeland.

The trail is planned to run along Myrtle Avenue, and travel from the park up to the Washington Mutual bank.

Port President Lynae Slinden said the Port plans to construct the trail at the same time Island County is constructing the stormwater system in an interlocal agreement, and will be a welcome sight for the many Freeland residents who are pushing for trails in Freeland.

November

After a five-month vacancy in the Port of South Whidbey, Edwin Field of Clinton has been hired to fill the position of Port manager.

Field will begin as a part time employee, until some of the Port’s projects — like the Bush Point project — begin construction in 2004.

He said he will continue to work with his previous employer URS Corp. in Seattle as a construction manager for the new National Flight Interpretive Center at Paine Field, which is due to be completed in 2005.

Slinden said Field will provide invaluable expertise to the Langley Small Boat Harbor project, and has familiarity with government processes for such projects.

December

The Port exercised their option to buy the Clinton landing property for $650,000.

The Port will immediately take over the leases on the building, which they will let expire in May. Once the tenants have been vacated, Field said he expects the building to be demolished later in 2004.

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