Friday was a day for celebration and a water show at South Whidbey Harbor, as South End representatives and community members gathered for the grand opening of the two new docks at the harbor.
Port of South Whidbey staff and commissioners were all smiles as they presented the long-awaited expansion project to the public. And the crowd enjoyed a demonstration of South Whidbey Fire/EMS’s new fireboat, which is permanently moored at the harbor.
Speakers all pointed to the partnerships between the port, the fire district, Langley and the state of Washington in making the project a success.
Congressman Rick Larsen, a Second District Democrat, was in attendance and praised the port’s partnership with the city for pushing the project through to completion. He said one of his major goals is to support long-term investments in local infrastructure for economic growth.
“This is a good example of a recreational asset not just for Langley or for South Whidbey, but for the entire region. We’re all pleased to be part of that,” Larsen said.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said the project, with its intertwining connections, is a testament of governments working together to achieve good things.
“Hats off to the port for working together,” she cheered. “Public access to the beach is a high priority, but marine access is even more dear. To have a successful project like this be prosperous is something we should not take lightly — it proves we can do good things together.”
The $1.7 million project broke ground in May 2013 with engineering design by Everett-based Reid Middleton, construction by Mike Carlson Enterprises, and sign design by Clinton resident Jay Davenny.
The expansion adds two docks to the harbor, the first with 200 feet available for boats and the second with 130 feet available. Both are positioned in water at least 25 feet deep to accommodate larger vessels.
South End residents Phil Simon and Greg Hein spoke on the history of harbor property and its changing role from a privately-owned commercial enterprise to the final vision of a recreational boating area.
Simon opened with a joke describing getting projects done in government is like pinning jello to a tree, alluding to the challenges of getting the expansion project completed.
“The jello is pinned to the tree,” he concluded.
State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and state Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, both spoke to the economic value an expanded facility brings to the area.
“This is a tremendous help to your economy… ,” Bailey said. “People love to come here and love to spend money here.”
The harbor project also aimed to add value on a local scale, aiding the fire district and the city.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer said previously firefighters and EMS responders were hindered by water access that’s tide dependent. Out of 34 calls for service needed from the water, they failed to launch two-thirds of the time, he said.
Now with the expanded facility, and a new boat, responders will be able to reach the 400 homes that don’t have appropriate road access to firetrucks.
Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy said it has been exciting to watch the transformations and is looking forward to future projects connecting the city with the harbor.
“The dedication of this project signals a new era of boating and marine life in the city,” McCarthy said.