EDITORIAL | Marina expansion is worthy investment

In what was supposed to be a moment of triumph for the Port of South Whidbey this week – the water equivalent of a groundbreaking for the marina improvement project – instead resulted in yet another setback.

An 80-foot barge nearly sank, dumping its on-board crane into the depths. There it sits, collecting sea life at the bottom of South Whidbey Harbor.

Good grief.

Just how many headaches can one public works project face? Funding problems, intense public criticism, permitting nightmares; one would think the plan is cursed.

It is not. And Port officials should keep their eyes on the prize and not be discouraged.

The result will be a bigger marina. That means more boats, more visitors and more dollars flowing into South Whidbey’s economy.

Large, expensive infrastructure projects can be daunting, both in terms of logistics and public popularity. No one wants to pay more taxes, and elected officials are subjected to fierce questioning and demands for justification.

That’s as it should be. Not all ideas are created equal but in this case, the commissioners are right on.

Port districts, by law, exist to foster economic development and their most common tool for accomplishing that is with airports and marinas. They are the railroads of modern-day commerce, especially when it comes to tourism throughout Puget Sound.

Boaters are a massive group and South Whidbey is ripe for a piece of the pie currently divvied up by a select few, communities such as Port Townsend, Friday Harbor and Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.

They are all destination towns, boater destination towns. And they are so because they are charming waterfront communities with large marinas.

Langley may not have a ferry dock, but it is perfectly situated to become a similar destination, especially for boaters from Everett. The Village by the Sea is just a few hours away and would be an appealing weekend alternative to areas like Port Townsend.

According to Bob Schoonmaker, owner of the Chandlery in Eagle Harbor, his community thrives on a similar market of Seattle boaters who are eager for a quick and easy island reprieve.

Creating more space in Eagle Harbor has paid off and paid off big, and it will in Langley too, he said.

“Any improvement will come back to you in spades,” Schoonmaker said. “I don’t know who’s paying for it but you guys are going to get your money back.”

The Port commissioners’ vision to enlarge Langley marina and make it easier for boaters to visit South Whidbey is an idea worth investing in.

Keep your chins up boys, this is one infrastructure project that should not sink.


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