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South Whidbey Parks candidates promise improvements, both open to aquatics center
Two political newcomers will square off this November for Position 3 in the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District’s only contested commissioner race.
Captn Blynd and Bob Hezel Jr., both Freeland residents, are hoping for the seat currently occupied by Jim Porter, a long-time commissioner who was on the board when the district was formed in 1983. Porter has decided not to seek re-election.
Incumbents Mark Helpenstell and Matt Simms are seeking another four years unopposed.
Ahead for the parks board is the push for renewing the district’s maintenance and operations levy in 2014, pursuing the operation of Holmes Harbor Golf Course, possibly managing three county parks and financing an aquatics center.
Yes, that is his legal name after he changed it many years ago. The Freeland man, 52, has lived on South Whidbey for four years.
Within the past year, Blynd focused on the parks district as an outlet for his time and energy. The retired technical support professional has attended board meetings regularly since he entered the race in March. His big idea for the district is to bring together the district and recreational groups, such as 4-H and the South Whidbey Yacht Club, and even businesses that offer activities like kayaking or horse riding.
“I’d like to see more synergy, partnerships,” Blynd said.
He envisioned utilizing Parks as a hub for recreation on South Whidbey. When people want to go fishing, hiking, play soccer or learn to dance, they should learn about their options from the parks district.
“ ‘The Big Book of Fun’ is what we need to get for South Whidbey Island,” Blynd said.
Now retired, Blynd has offered a course in 3-D printing through the Whidbey Island Community Education Center and volunteers with Whidbey Air, an online radio station.
His background in technology has him interested in directing Parks into new territory with its comprehensive plan and program offerings.
That said, the district’s recent evaluation of possibly managing the Holmes Harbor Golf Course — currently operated by Langley resident Craig Moore after years of closure — has Blynd’s interest. He supported the district’s look into the feasibility of operating the 18-hole course in Freeland, an area in which the district does not have any facilities, though he was rooting for Moore to succeed.
“I’d rather see it in private hands,” Blynd said.
One of the looming interests for taxpayers in the parks district is the district’s pursuit of an aquatics facility. The original $15 million price tag was rejected by voters, but district officials remain committed to scaling back the project and pursuing a smaller facility. Blynd said he liked the pool’s function of providing recreation for people, especially an aging South Whidbey population that can use it for hydrotherapy and exercise.
“As a concept, I’m all in favor,” he said. “The dollar signs worry me.”
A lifelong South Whidbey resident, Hezel knows the parks on South Whidbey well.
The Freeland resident used to mountain bike through the trails and recently helped build the bike pump track near the skate bowl in Community Park. His interest in overseeing the district is his 3-year-old son and soon-to-be newborn daughter.
“It came to my attention that the only place for recreation is the Parks and Rec properties,” Hezel said. “Growing up here as a kid, we could go anywhere we wanted. It really seems like we’re starting to lose ground. I don’t want to see us lose more.”
Hezel’s plan is to guide the district into enhancing its current properties for diversified use. The 31-year-old family man said he knows other young families who have struggled to find ways to keep their children engaged in activities on South Whidbey. Having meandering paths through Community Park or the Trustland Trails is well and good, but carting a toddler through them is not ideal, he said.
“My motives are pure,” he said. “I have children. I grew up on this island and have seen it change.”
As an avid mountain biker, he cited the success of parks in Issaquah and in Seattle that draw riders from across Western Washington. When those people drive their thousand-dollar bikes there, said Hezel, they plan on spending some money in the area.
The partner and owner of Hezel Thomas Builders said he knows how to manage a budget, eliminate unnecessary costs and find new ways to make money. He specializes in remodeling and new construction, experience Hezel wants to bring to the parks board. Rather than focus solely on expanding parks properties, Hezel said reworking some of the existing property would be more effective. He proposed adding a bike park to the Sports Complex or creating mountain bike paths at Trustland Trails as a boon to the district.
Hezel agreed with the district’s pursuit of an aquatics facility, though he offered a new idea. He suggested breaking the project into phases so additional wings could be added as funding becomes available.
“If we want to make it happen, we’re going to have to spend a lot,” said Hezel of the voter-rejected $15 million project.