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Port praised for improvements at Phil Simon Park

FREELAND — There’s a new park down at the Langley Marina, and the son of the man who donated the land 35 years ago told Port of South Whidbey commissioners they did a good job.

“The result is very pleasing and exactly the kind of quality public-access park our family envisioned when we deeded the waterfront to the people of South Whidbey,” Phil Simon Jr. said at the port’s meeting on Wednesday.

But the Simon family had its doubts that the park would come to fruition.

Four years ago, Simon’s father, also named Philip Simon, approached port commissioners and asked for help in restoring the run-down park named for his father at the Langley Marina.

“There’s a shabby sign, the toilets are sub-par, the parking is still gravel and generally it’s in terrible shape,” he said at the time. “We’ve waited 30 years for the city to make good on a promise made to our family.”

In 1974, the land comprising most of the waterfront was given to the public by the Simon family. The gift carried some strings, including the requirements that public access to the park and waterfront remain in perpetuity, that no charges be assessed for using the boat-launch ramp and that an attractive park would be built.

Much has changed since Simon’s personal pitch for park improvements four years ago. The old signs, untended grass and worn benches were dismantled this past summer, and a new park was built along the retaining wall south of the boat ramp.

Picnic tables, barbecue grills, paving stones and decorative rocks were installed. The port has joined with Whidbey Watershed Stewards, and they have planned a volunteer-work party on Saturday, Oct. 24 to add landscaping improvements.

The elder Simon was one of the prime movers on South Whidbey back in the 1930s. He delivered the first electric power from a generator on his property, operated a boat taxi, ran a tavern and delivered the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for years.

This week, Phil Simon Jr. — his father was unable to attend due to a broken hip — told commissioners the family couldn’t be happier and wanted to express its appreciation.

“The new park is a quality, welcoming asset to the community, and it’s interesting how just a little caring maintenance made the launching ramp usable again,” Simon said. “This is the proper way to memorialize the contributions and life of our beloved father and grandfather.”

But the park lacks a sign, and Simon made the port an offer.

His brother has the stern of an old fishing boat that could be used to make a sign. The Simon family is prepared to donate the costs for materials and installation.

Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert said that, provided the sign won’t block the view, it would work for him.

“Phil agreed to wait until the two new commissioners take their seat on the commission,” Tapert said. “And, of course, any new sign would have to go through Langley’s design review process.”

Commissioners will hold a grand opening at the park in the spring, when Simon’s father can attend.

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