LETTER TO THE EDITOR: South Whidbey Marina project attuned to future realities

I must take exception to a recent letter which argued against the South Whidbey Marina renovation project.

To the editor:

I must take exception to a recent letter which argued against the South Whidbey Marina renovation project.

The letter made several points, the main one being that high fuel prices will wipe out recreational boating for most people, and a newly rejuvenated marina would therefore not attract visiting boaters or generate the anticipated economic activity.

In actuality, high fuel prices will affect Langley boat traffic in a very positive direction. Boaters will pull back on their throttles and take shorter trips. Many will rediscover the frugality of wind power, which also dictates a trend toward shorter trips.

Demand for weekend destinations within an easy, six-knot travel distance from major boating centers will increase substantially. An enlarged and improved marina at Langley will be in high demand by transient boaters.

Allowing the current facility to continue its decline will force this opportunity to bypass South Whidbey and go elsewhere. The Port of South Whidbey’s initiative to capitalize on this obvious trend is to be lauded, not derided.

Several other points are equally unrelated to reality.

The letter decried the idea of using public funds for recreational facilities in these difficult times, and instead advocated for increasing food production in the port district.

What does the writer have in mind?

Buying up available open land and converting it to farming?

I would hate to see the financials on that one.

Establishing more farmers markets? Don’t we have that one covered already? Expanding port facilities for the fishing fleet? Building fish farms? If there is a viable port project for food production, it should be proposed for community discussion.

Note that the Port of Coupeville already has a fine farm. It uses up most of their budget, and I very much doubt that its agricultural output makes a noticeable difference in the price of food in Central Whidbey.

Nothing I can think of will return South Whidbey to the economy of its roots: lumbering, fishing and farming.

On the other hand, we do have assets that can be adapted to current and expected future economic facts of life. The marina with its fortuitous location is one of those, and it makes sense pursue that development.

As an aside, investment in recreational facilities during hard times has been a successful strategy in the past.

For example, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps hired workers for development at national parks, and people are still enjoying and working at those parks today.

I’m not saying that we have the exact same circumstances here and now. I just want to dispel the idea that building recreational facilities with public funds during lean economic times is somehow immoral on its face, as the letter implied.

The letter also attacked port development at the airpark as being ill-advised for the same argument: High fuel prices will ground all the airplanes, so we don’t need an airport here.

I am under the impression the port is looking into the viability of industrial development on the airpark property, not an expansion of flight operations and aviation support facilities. To me, that makes good sense and certainly does not count on a growth in general aviation activity.

There may be valid arguments against the marina development, but high fuel prices and long term market outlook are certainly not among them.

If we all climb under our respective economic rocks and wait for the return of good times, we will be part of the problem. Rather, let us support the port commissioners in their proactive efforts to fulfill their charter, which is, as I understand it, to develop infrastructure that supports economic growth.

Bill Brown