June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:39 PM
"The community of Glendale is valiantly fighting to have the powers that be look at things in a new way -- that there's more value in nature and open space than there is in the guarantee of good roads.it won't be an easy battle.The situation is this. Glendale Road washed out mightily during the big snow/rain storm of January 1997. Damage was severe, but luckily the community has another exit, up Humphrey Road on the other side of the hill. Since the washout, Island County has accumulated enough local, state and federal dollars to fix Glendale Road, but residents are resisting. They like the old road, which nature has transformed into a peaceful, tree-lined hiking trail beside a babbling creek that for the first time in 50 years is hosting salmon looking for a place to spawn because the big storm also washed out a culvert that for years had closed the creek to migratory fish.However, Island County, led by Commissioner Mike Shelton, has a dilemma on its hands. It has the money to repair Glendale Road now in what they say is a fish-friendly manner. Presumably, if the wishes of the residents are heeded, much of that money would go away. And the community's other exit on Humphrey Road is precarious at best. It is perhaps the most slide-prone road in the county, and it is just a matter of time before it slides again. Looking at the hillside, it's easy to imagine a slide so severe that the road is irreparable for many months or years. Without fixing Glendale Road now, the community could be totally isolated, aside from water access, in the future.Should that happen, future county commissioners would shake their heads in disbelief that when the county had the money, it didn't repair Glendale Road. This, no doubt, is what worries Shelton, who is usually sensitive to community concerns.As a compromise, Glendale citizens have proposed making their road one-way. This would provide them an alternative route should Humphrey Road ever close. But this still leaves a big question -- will they be satisfied with a one-way road forever, or will they be demanding a two-way road and all the additional money that will cost? Or should the complete two-way road be built now and half closed until further notice, even though the community objects to the scope of the project?It's a very tough call for a county commissioner. In the past such problems never arose. Fixing a washed out road was a sure route to popularity. What should be done now that times have changed and people value other things more than roads, even if it puts their transportation future in jeopardy? On the one hand, a commissioner should try to meet the desires of each community. But he also has to worry about what is best for the county as a whole, and to some extent is accountable for what happens in the future.While it is a tough decision, the Glendale community's wishes deserve further exploration. After all, their preferences would give residents of the entire island another great place to hike, and at the end of Glendale Road is public access to public tidelands. This opportunity should not be thrown out just because road problems have always been handled the same way -- by fixing them, no questions asked.The residents of Glendale also need to come up with a realistic alternative. It's hard to believe that if Humphrey Road slides away, they won't come to the county begging for help to fully re-open Glendale Road. "