EDITORIAL | Glendale reversal shows foresight

A single person has the power to change the future for us all. On Monday, that was Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson.

The Oak Harbor Republican reconsidered her earlier position and, in a surprise move, agreed to approve a partnership between the county and the Whidbey Camano Land Trust to purchase beachfront property in Glendale. The county isn’t pitching any money into the deal, but will hold a recreation easement on the land.

The decision is not an outright victory, as the property still has to be successfully purchased, but combined with the vote of Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson the project now has a chance.

Buying public land is a controversial topic, especially these days. Republicans in particular, or so it seems, opine passionately that government must slow its feverish land purchasing and instead focus its efforts and resources on maintaining what it already has. The merits and logic of this argument are obvious, especially when in recent years county government has been so strapped for cash that it has begged other public agencies or organizations to take over some of its parkland.

But that doesn’t mean special opportunities should be passed over, and Glendale qualifies as a special opportunity. This tiny community was once a boom town, a busy crossroads of loggers and fishermen. The historic Glendale hotel still stands sentry over a property that has served as an access — though private — to the water for generations.

The two properties for sale also have assets that make them especially appealing. One has a boat launch and the other a long dock. Overwater construction isn’t cheap or easy to permit, and facilities such as these are a huge bonus.

Some argue that there are better beaches to purchase, ones that aren’t so isolated from the island’s population centers and transportation arteries. Perhaps they’re right, that five minutes from Highway 525 and the ferry in Clinton is too far to travel, but it’s unlikely that’s the case.

But issues of access or overwater facilities aside, this is simply beachfront property and that alone makes it worthy of consideration. Whidbey is an island. There is only so much land. Growth won’t stop. Everyone wants a view. In other words, every beach is precious.

This is not a new argument. In fact, it’s with no small sense of irony that The Record editorialized the same issue exactly 50 years ago today [see page 2].

Beach access is just as important now as it was then, and 50 years from now island residents who can’t afford the half million dollar price tag for shoreline property will look back and thank the leaders of today for their foresight.

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