EDITORIAL | Port should keep the faith

A long time ago on South Whidbey, three Port of South Whidbey commissioners surprised the community by purchasing a beautiful piece of property in the Possession Point area, including 667 feet of precious waterfront and 36.6 upland acres.

Up until that time, the little port district had accomplished some community improvements, usually partnering with the county to assure boaters access to the water with the installation and upkeep of boat ramps. But this was the first big project the port had ever undertaken by itself.

Commissioners Emil Lindholdt, Bill Smith and Bob Linehan, all of whom have passed on, were concerned about building the best park possible while satisfying skeptical neighbors that the park would not harm their community. Sixty members of the Possession Beach Waterfront Park showed up at a meeting and were uniformly against the park.

However, they were assured that only a waterfront park was envisioned and the upland forested area would remain virtually untouched. It was needed to provide a small water system for the park. The port’s consultant, Tom Roehl, also long since passed, mentioned there might also some day be “hiking trails” in the uplands.

The port kept its word, built a beautiful waterfront park with a nice boat ramp and picnic spots. Later, with the help of Americorps, a trail to honor former port and community leader Dorothy Cleveland was constructed through the forest to the hilltop where one could catch glimpses through the trees of Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains.

The commissioners were rightly proud of their work and over time the community came to see the park as an asset. All were satisfied.

Now, a new set of commissioners has upset the status quo. They made plans to lease space on the ridge for a cellular tower; they parceled off 10 acres with the idea of selling it to make some money. Now, out of desperation, a private party has offered to buy all the uplands to assure the park remains a park.

Today’s commissioners must honor the work of those who preceded them, not diminish the wonderful work they did and antagonize the park’s neighbors. Don’t let AT&T build their cell tower. Don’t sell that 10 acres of park land for development. Let Emil Lindholdt, Bill Smith, Bob Linehan, Tom Roehl and Dorothy Cleveland rest in peace. They deserve it.

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