Lakes get five more years with South Whidbey Parks

Nathan Lux, 16, of Clinton rips a disc out of Goss Lake during the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District
Nathan Lux, 16, of Clinton rips a disc out of Goss Lake during the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District's kayak camp in August.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / Record file

Public accesses at Deer, Lone and Goss lakes will remain open for another five years, thanks to an agreement hammered out last week.

The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District approved a five-year contract with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Friday, Sept. 20, to manage facilities and property up to the water’s edge. The district commissioners’ approval was an extension of a contract approved a few years ago after the state agency made major budget cuts that affected several properties, including the three South Whidbey lakes.

The contract includes a termination clause that allows either entity to withdraw for any reason but Doug Coutts, district director, said the agreement appeared to be issue-free.

“We don’t have any major problem with it at this point,” Coutts said.

The board was originally scheduled to review the contract at a Wednesday meeting but it was rescheduled to Friday for lack of a quorum.

The agreement with Fish and Wildlife puts South Whidbey Parks on the hook to clean public facilities, such as the one-stall bathroom at Lone Lake, and keep the grounds trimmed. Any water work or ramp issues are the responsibility of Fish and Wildlife.

“We cut the grass and clean,” Coutts said.

South Whidbey Parks staff spends at least a couple of days each week at the lakes in the busy summer months. Time spent at Deer, Lone and Goss drops in the fall and winter as fishing and boating declines.

Making sure the lakes are still available to the public is entirely an expense for the parks district. The agreement does not include any additional state funding. Faced with closing a public property or putting more work on Parks’ small staff, the commissioners wanted to keep the three lakes open.

When the parks district assumed responsibility for the lakes in 2010, the commissioners agreed to do so without additional funding. Keeping the popular sites open was estimated to cost about $3,000 per month.

One way to recoup some of that money is to begin collecting parking or boat-launch fees, but Coutts said that’s not currently under consideration by the board.

Hired in April 2013, Coutts said district officials’ primary focus is to successfully renew its existing maintenance and operations levy in 2014 — not hit the public with new user fees.

“If we were to do anything, it would be down the road,” he said.


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