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Friends ask port to expand park

With the scuttling of a proposal to build a boat storage shed at Freeland Park, a group of local volunteers are pressing for the expansion of the park in case the controversial idea comes back again.

The local volunteer organization Friends of Freeland is asking Port of South Whidbey officials to support the expansion of the park.

Friends of Freeland wants the port to establish a fund for the sole purpose of purchasing the properties adjacent to Freeland Park.

The park is owned and managed by the Port of South Whidbey, and Island County Parks Department is responsible for the upkeep of the park. The port maintains the dock and boat ramp.

The Friends proposal to the port came after a local rowing club requested the port pay for a storage structure for its rowing shells in the grassy areas just west of the restrooms.

That proposal for a shell storage shed, however, led to controversy and criticism that the park's open space should be preserved as-is.

"Our proposal came about as a result of the rowing club's proposal. We didn't feel it was appropriate to take that much space away from the public," said Marlane Harrington, president of the Freeland group.

"Right now, we don't know of any adjacent property for sale, but that could change," said Harrington.

The pieces of property the group would like to see added to the park are vacant.

To the east of Freeland Park is a strip of land that runs from Stewart Drive to the beach, and across Stewart on the northeast corner of Myrtle Avenue are two-plus acres of mostly undeveloped land, with an old storage building and pear trees.

"It is an historic piece of property and perhaps the long storage building could be renovated to provide some storage," Harrington said.

Harrington says more park space for the public use is desirable with the current population growth in Freeland.

"It's important to maintain the views and add more public recreational opportunities, such as kayak rentals at the park. To do that the park needs to be larger," Harrington said.

For now, the port agrees it's a good idea. But commissioners have no immediate plans to pursue the idea.

"It's pretty far out at this point because there is nothing for sale. We would have to talk about it as commissioners," said Port Chairman Rolf Seitle.

The port district tabled a request from the Island Rowing Club to fund construction of its storage facility at Freeland Park.

"We would like to keep the park clean. There was not enough public use in the proposal to go forward using public funds for private use," Seitle said. "Local residents also were very concerned about obstructing the views of Holmes Harbor."

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