Clearer signs ‘yes,’ new Clinton ferry terminal name ‘no’

Motorists zip by a road sign at the Clinton Ferry Terminal. An effort led by a chamber volunteer to change the name of the terminal has been rejected

A quiet proposal in recent weeks to remove “Clinton” from the Clinton Ferry Terminal name appears to have been largely rejected.

The idea was pitched by Clinton resident Donna Hood as part of greater plan/hope to alleviate confusion of visitors who are trying to get to Whidbey Island from Mukilteo. At least half a dozen people, including South End chamber of commerce directors, area elected officials, and tourism leaders met to discuss the proposal at a meeting in late December with state Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton.

Weeks later, however, it’s now clear that few, if any, are publicly supporting the name change. That includes Smith. Though she supports other efforts to improve existing confusion, changing the ferry dock’s name is not among them, she said.

“I just don’t think that’s necessary,” she said in a Friday morning interview.

She followed up her opinion with a formal position later that morning in an email to those involved.

“As a Clinton resident I believe it is important the terminal remain the Clinton terminal,” she wrote.

Langley Mayor Tim Callison described such a change as “catastrophic” to the greater effort for Clinton’s economic recovery, while Port of South Whidbey Commissioner and board President Ed Halloran described such a move as “counter productive.”

Hood is a volunteer with the visitor information kiosk at Ken’s Korner. The kiosk is jointly funded by the Freeland and Langley chambers of commerce. Hood said it’s become exceedingly clear during her service that getting to South Whidbey via the ferry isn’t as clear as many assume. Road signs, ferry schedules and online materials are inconsistent and don’t always specify that Clinton is located on Whidbey Island. For non-locals, it’s confusing, Hood said.

Further compounding the problem is the terminal’s name, which doesn’t include “Whidbey,” and the lack of prosperity of downtown Clinton.

“They literally [arrive] at Ken’s Korner and say, ‘Did I miss Clinton,’ ” she said?

The issue is also a headache at the Coupeville Ferry Terminal, she said, as the facility is not actually located in the historic town — it’s several miles away on the east side of Whidbey Island. People get off the boat and are confused about where they’ve landed, Hood said.

Ironically, the dock was formerly the Keystone Ferry Terminal but was changed a few years ago due to the successful lobbying efforts of Coupeville town leaders. They wanted the new name for branding reasons.

Support for changing the name again is unclear. Emails forwarded to The Record from a leading chamber official indicated early support for the idea, but that’s not reflective of the position of the board, according to chamber President Shelli Trumbull.

“What you saw was one person’s opinion, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the greater membership,” Trumbull said.

She added that the board has not even discussed the issue, much less taken a stance, and that she personally hasn’t heard that this is a problem or is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Back on South Whidbey, some Clinton leaders were surprised to learn of the effort to rename the dock. Jack Lynch, president of the Clinton Community Council, was invited to the December meeting but he was out of town and said he didn’t actually learn about the proposal until earlier this week. He was not supportive, and said he doubts many others on the council would be either.

“I really think a lot of us would question the basis for that, especially in the context of everything we’re trying to do for downtown Clinton,” Lynch said.

The community council has worked for years toward economic recovery, and removing Clinton from the name would be a step back as it would, in a sense, take the struggling area off the map.

He said this will be an issue discussed at the council’s meeting next week, which is 6 p.m. Monday at the Clinton Community Hall.

Although it seems abundantly clear that facility name changes are not in the wind, there was widespread support for streamlining the other confusing or conflicting material. Smith is working with the state Department of Transportation, which has acknowledged the problems, to make improvements. Road signs that say Clinton will include Whidbey Island in parenthesis, along with ferry schedules and online materials.

Hood said that while she had hoped for the “whole enchilada” she’s happy that at least some of the changes will move forward.

“That to me, helping people get here, was the whole point,” she said, and this will help accomplish that.