Park commissioner: Bond would save trails, fulfill mission

An effort to save a connecting trail system and 40 acres of forest could come to a successful end in November.

The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District is asking voters to approve the issuance of a five-year bond of approximately 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The bond would allow the district to match a state grant and purchase two 20-acre parcels that include trails and access points to a larger trail system off Maxwelton Road. The $379,000 bond would mean an estimated $7.39 increase in annual property taxes for someone with a $400,00 home.

The Waterman family owns the Langley properties, located behind the old primary school, and had allowed public access on the trails for more than a decade. Recently, the family has decided to put the property on the market, which would open it up to development.

Purchasing the properties would align with the park district’s mission to preserve land that gives people the opportunity for outdoor recreation, said park Commissioner Matt Simms. Another grant could be awarded in 2020 and would go toward paying off the bond, which would reduce the amount residents pay.

The effort to save the trails began with Langley resident Shelley Ackerman, who lives near the properties. When her Save the Trails group wasn’t able to collect enough to buy the land by itself, she made her case to the park district.

“The risk of this property getting sold is too great for us not to find some other way to bridge the gap,” Simms said.

No one wrote an argument against the ballot measure in the voter’s guide.

There’s no road access to the property, but it has foot access from the primary school and connecting trails to a larger trail system on school district property. The park district would maintain the trails, but there aren’t plans to further develop the land, Simms said.

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