Bill Oakes, Island County’s director of public works, has stepped up to fill an inexplicable void in leadership on South Whidbey.
At issue is one of South Whidbey’s most beautiful beaches, some 300-feet on Mutiny Bay that in the summer is white sand looking like it was imported from the South Pacific. The owner of this property, Frank Robinson, wants to give it to the public. Robinson is owner of Robinson Helicopter Company in California. He grew up in the Mutiny Bay area and wants today’s youth to enjoy some of what he had as a kid. This isn’t his first exercise in quietly helping his community, asking for nothing in return. He has helped scores of South Whidbey High School graduates attend the University of Washington over the years.
The beach donation would seem to be a natural for the Port of South Whidbey. There is already a boat ramp adjoining the beach at Mutiny Bay that it helps the county maintain and a grassy parking area that, during the ling cod season, requires portable toilets for the popular fishery. The port is wholly or partly responsible for several similar facilities around South Whidbey.
Unfortunately, the port didn’t jump when the opportunity arose. Instead it dallied, concerned the beach gift might interfere with its pipe dream of building a parking garage in Mukilteo. The South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District also expressed interest, which was kind of them, but they’ve got enough on their plate with parks, athletic fields and the lake boat ramps it took over from the state.
Only Bill Oakes, no doubt supported by commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Angie Homola, saw this beach as a priceless jewel that requires immediate action to obtain by the end of the year, as desired by Mr. Robinson.
The county should proceed to take the lead because it has the enthusiasm and legal resources. But the Port of South Whidbey should agree to help maintain the boat ramp, keep portable toilets in order and make sure the area is kept clean and is no problem for the neighbors. It’s the least they can do at this point.