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Please share your concerns on Dorothy Cleveland Trail | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
At their February board meeting, the Port of South Whidbey board voted to carve up the Dorothy Cleveland Trail uplands park and list a 14-acre parcel for $235,000 — five times the value assessed by the county earlier this year. Their stated mission is being radically changed from one of stewardship of our lands to maximizing revenues by selling or developing public lands in order to fund other projects, such as the expansion of the Langley Marina.
The Friends of the Dorothy Cleveland Trail (www.FriendsOfTheDorothyClevelandTrail.org) is a South Whidbey community group organized to protect, maintain and advocate for the Dorothy Cleveland Trail and the associated uplands park.
Our goals are to safeguard the pristine ecology of the lands through which the trail runs, ensure that the trail is maintained in good condition by a dedicated group of committed local volunteers and encourage awareness and usage of the trail for Whidbey residents and island visitors.
We have offered to help facilitate the transfer of this park to another steward, such as South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District, Whidbey Camano Land Trust or the Friends of the Dorothy Cleveland Trail.
Unfortunately, they have set the price so high that only a significant commercial venture could possibly consider a purchase, especially in the current depressed marketplace.
The port gives three main reasons for selling this property, all of which we refute here. The commissioners have chosen not to seriously address any of our concerns:
1. “The port should not be spending taxpayer funds on upland parks.” In fact, the Port does not budget or spend any funds on the uplands park.
2. “The port has no business being involved in upland parks, period.” In fact, it is only selling the portion of the park with commercial development value while keeping the portion of the uplands park that has no commercial value.
3. “The port’s decision is in the best interest of the public we serve.” In fact, there has been consistent, long-standing and significant public opposition to its proposals for developing the Dorothy Cleveland Trail park.
The port has chosen to ignore all of our proposals to protect this wildlife-filled area and have chosen instead to exploit it for commercial purposes. Port commissioners have made it clear that they are no longer in the business of being stewards of public lands and are open to any offers to surplus and sell public lands.
They even had the audacity to suggest that the property could be kept a park if the Friends of the Dorothy Cleveland Trail wish to purchase it at these above market prices. Among other opportunities, they are seriously considering leasing or selling the park to AT&T who has expressed an interest in building a cell tower at the top of the ridge. We must not allow them to sell off our public lands for commercial use.
If you are passionate about preserving natural areas on South Whidbey, please express your outrage to the Port of South Whidbey Commissioners: Chris Jerome, Curt Gordon and Geoff Tapert, as well as the listing agent, Tom White of Caldwell in Freeland. The port office can be reached by phone at 331-5494 or by e-mail at email@example.com.