The view in Langley is about to get a whole lot better.
The city, in partnership with Langley Main Street, recently ordered three new and permanent telescopes for installation at key viewpoints overlooking Saratoga Passage. Viewers won’t be able to spy life on mars, but the 20 power w/60 millimeter telescopes should be plenty powerful enough to observe whales, passing boat traffic and the Cascades.
As an added bonus, they’re not the silver coin-operated binoculars that often grace scenic areas around the world but are single-eye “pirate-style” telescopes, Mayor Tim Callison said. And they work for free.
“I’m guessing they’ll be pretty popular,” he said.
The final locations are still being decided, but they’ll likely be installed at Whale Bell Park, Boy and Dog Park, and the lookout along Cascade Avenue. They’re being manufactured now and project leaders hope they’ll be in place before the end of the tourist season.
The telescopes are part of a grant-funded street improvement project. They’re meant to be a fun thing for visitors and residents alike, but also to increase pedestrian circulation throughout the area by creating or enhancing existing destinations.
“We want people to get out of their cars and walk around,” said Janet Ploof, president of Langley Main Street.
The Complete Streets grant program is largely designed to improve traffic flow, but it also aims to improve the pedestrian experience, Ploof said. She added that Langley was successful in that mission with the Second Street project, and that record helped in the joint application with the city for Complete Street funds earlier this year.
The city received a total of $254,000. About $154,000 will go to repaving First Street between Wharf Street and Anthes Avenue, and the rest toward improving pedestrian mobility and enjoyment — that includes the $11,000 for the telescopes.
Produced by The Glass Eye, a division of the Calif.-based Turomatic Machine Co, the SM-1000 All Weather model is built like a tank to resist impacts and vandalism. They can operate in temperatures ranging “from below zero to above 140 degrees with no problems,” according to the company’s website.
One of the three telescopes is actually two telescopes mounted on a single pedestal; one is American Disabilities Act compliant, mounted on a bent knee for people in wheel chairs.
According to Ploof, the idea man behind the telescopes was Callahan McVay, a Langley glass blower and business owner.
“Callahan is really a good thinker, he comes up with ideas of what people would really like to do in Langley,” she said.
McVay was the imagination behind the Sea Float Scramble, a popular winter dash for glass floats hidden in Seawall Park.
McVay said telescopes have been successful in other places and that Langley seemed like a good fit too with its regular supply of whales and scenic vistas. Plus they just seemed like fun, especially for kids.
“Give em a toilet paper roll and they all think they’re a pirate,” he said.
Callison said the city plans to hold a public meeting in October to figure out how to spend the remaining $100,000 of the grant and develop a master plan. Some ideas include adding bike racks, widening sidewalks or creating a “bump-out” with a sitting plaza on First Street like the one on Second Street.