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Philip Simon is not happy with port-city harbor fuss

Phil Simon pilots his boat Captor to shore at Langley in the early 1920s where wife Anna and daughters Eleanor and Evelyn await. - Photo courtesy of Philip D. Simon
Phil Simon pilots his boat Captor to shore at Langley in the early 1920s where wife Anna and daughters Eleanor and Evelyn await.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Philip D. Simon

As he surveyed the little park named for his grandfather at the Langley marina, Philip Simon was not happy.

“We’ve waited 30 years for the city to make good on a promise made to our family,” he said. “We’re fearful there’s some kind of turf war brewing between the port (of South Whidbey) and Langley and we are worried.”

In 1974, the waterfront land comprising most of the waterfront was given to the public by the Simon family. There were a few strings attached.

Public access to the park and the waterfront was to be guaranteed in perpetuity.

“My grandfather never charged to use the ramp and we wanted that to continue,” Simon said.

And an attractive multi-use park was to be constructed for the pleasure and welfare of all citizens.

“We haven’t done a very good job there,” Simon noted.

Simon made a personal pitch to Port of South Whidbey commissioners last week for the park project, hoping to correct some misconceptions.

He said public access is OK but “There’s a shabby sign, the toilets are sub-par, the parking is still gravel and generally it’s in terrible shape.”

While he appreciates efforts by both public agencies in soliciting funds to correct the problem, Simon is concerned the money may be lost if squabbling over ownership isn’t resolved.

“The public owns the property,” he told commissioners. “It’s as simple as that.”

The port has funded a total of $152,100 to match a grant given to Langley by the state Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation for renovations to the boat ramp, pier and Phil Simon Park, plus better parking and restrooms, landscaping, picnic tables and a boardwalk. Including private donations, there is $337,000 available to complete the work.

Simon, a principal corrosion control engineer for CC Technologies of Ohio, is pleased with the plan developed over the last few years and said many local citizens are as well.

Commission chairwoman Lynae Slinden noted the port is willing to work with the city.

“Our plan is to meet with them and we hope this is an opportunity to find a solution,” Slinden said.

But Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle feels differently.

“There’s always been a misunderstanding about all this; the boat ramp and park are separate issues,” he said at last week’s port meeting. “The city modified the plan and we haven’t been told in what way or how much it will cost.”

Seitle strongly supports ownership to ensure the port recovers any future investment.

The Simon family has deep roots in South Whidbey.

Phil Simon came to Whidbey Island in 1910 and never left. His quiet talents included being an electrician, boatman, newspaper distributor, waterfront developer and operator of the Sea Breeze Tavern which stood at the foot of the fuel pier for many years. He passed away in 1959 and is buried in Bayview Cemetery.

As Simon surveyed the run-down waterfront last Monday, he reflected on the good work his grandfather had done here.

“He meant a lot to this town — he delivered the first electric power from a generator on his property, operated a boat taxi, ran a tavern and delivered the Post-Intelligencer for years.

“I don’t want to see the project derailed because of a clash of egos,” Simon added. “Done right, it could become the beautiful gateway to Langley that all of us expected so many years ago.”

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