Opinion

Who owns the Big Box at Bayview?

There is a big beige box in Bayview.

Do you own a part of it?

The big box is the building that sits beside the corner of Bayview Road and the highway.

It is officially called the Bayview Community Hall, though most folks shorten the name to Bayview Hall.

Do you own it? The South Whidbey Record reaches beyond the island, but it is a good bet that if you are reading this article you are a resident of the South Whidbey School District. In that case, you own the hall with all of the other residents. It isn’t owned by the school district, or any local government. It isn’t owned by a big well-funded charity. Bayview Community Hall is owned by the residents of the South Whidbey School District.

For 80 years it has been a place to have parties, dances, fun and a few more thoughtful enterprises while the community has struggled through the Depression, wars, booms, busts and environmental crises. Amidst life’s strifes, we need public gathering places to relax and get away from those other worries. Those parties and such have kept the place going.

Anyone out there familiar with 80-year-old houses?

Imagine what it is like for the hall. Age brings character and maintenance bills. The hall has a lived-in feel, but heating is a battle between old furnaces and winter. The cold chills the walls that only have paint for insulation.

Wait until August and there aren’t enough windows or fans to keep the place cool. Parts that were quaint and fun no longer meet code.

A band in 1928 didn’t need as much power and lighting as today’s groups. Some improvements have been made, like the wheelchair ramp, but there is plenty to do.

Fortunately, the hall is owned by the community. Unfortunately, it pays its bills by itself. It doesn’t get a slice of property taxes. It doesn’t have a bond funding its operations. The hall relies on its owners to take care of the building and its bills.

Most of its funds come from the people who rent the hall. Classes, dances, church services, parties, and markets keep the place going — almost.

On April 18, Janie and Joe will fill the place with music. They’ll be playing a benefit concert while the hall holds a silent auction of local art, goods and services. Lots of locals are contributing to help raise money to pay for propane, taxes, power and maybe even enough to improve the place.

Bayview Community Hall lends a character to the island that is visible to everyone that drives by: tourist, weekender and resident. A brand new building wouldn’t feel the same. Maintaining the hall helps maintain the feel of the island.

The hall is even more appealing to those of us who have taken the time to visit it and got to know it.

I’m there for the dances. I love a live band playing on a real stage, with a room full of fun friends, in a hall that is big without being cavernous, and that is casual instead of pretentious. A good crowd can make the place warm in ways that no furnace can duplicate.

As with any charity, there are always other ways to contribute such as donations, or becoming a member. Let’s do that; but also, consider using the hall that you own. Maybe you’ve finally found the place to hold that party that wouldn’t fit in your house, or maybe its time to drop in on a class, services or a dance. Maybe you’ll feel a little richer because you’ve just found something you didn’t know that you owned. And maybe you’ll feel a lot richer knowing that you live in a place where community also means having a place where we all can meet.

A big beige box on the other side of the water would be a mega-store owned by a global corporation. On South Whidbey, our big beige box is owned by us and is a place to gather and play.

Now, imagine how much we could enjoy it if we raised enough to spruce up the place.

Tom Trimbath is a Bayview Community Hall board member and dancer. Bayview Community Hall is a 501(c)(3) charity, which means donations are tax-deductible. For info, visit www.bayviewhall.org.

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