Reaction to refining Langley’s “wild edge” was mostly positive Wednesday as the community discussed a proposal to add artistic yet functional shelters, a concrete promenade and other facelift features to Seawall Park.
“Our hope as a group is to create something to increase the usage of the park,” said John DeWitt with the Seawall Park Subcommittee. “It’s just this wild edge of town where people could go down and read a book and enjoy it.”
The proposal must still be approved by the city council.
A narrow strip of land snaking below First Street and perched above a beach, Seawall Park is oriented north and faces Camano Island. It provides a panoramic vista of snow-capped mountains and Saratoga Passage and serves as a starting point for swimmers and beach walkers.
Residents asked a variety of questions over the placement and maintenance of the proposed structures that use natural elements and would provide protection from wind. They also inquired about accessibility and the possibility of adding restrooms.
“Improved accessibility is not part of the current design,” said Sharon Emerson, chairwoman of the Seawall Park Subcommittee that’s spent two years focusing on how to draw more people to the waterfront.
Possible ways to help people get up and down the park’s steep slope are being explored as future improvements, Emerson said.
Previous input from the community directed the Seawall Park Subcommittee’s focus, Emerson said.
“Sprucing up the park but not creating an art-filled event space” was the takeaway message from the park’s stakeholders — Langley’s residents, Emerson said.
Constructing restrooms is not in the plan because of the cost involved. Some found the omission incongruous to the goal of attracting more people.
Port of South Whidbey Commissioner Ed Halloran pointed out that restrooms would be expected and needed, “once you get kids and picnickers and more people swimming.”
Krista Loercher commented about the proposed promenade that would run the entire length of the park.
“I don’t know if I want to see a concrete pathway,” she said. “I’d like to see material that’s more porous.”
Concrete is safest, DeWitt replied, because it’s a smooth, hard surface for walking at night and for the disabled.
Sketches of the five features designed by Jay Davenny were posted around the meeting held at Langley United Methodist Church. About three dozen people attended.
The largest shelter called “The Middens” would be located at the park’s east end, the widest area of the city-owned park. Oyster shells wired together would comprise the walls.
Davenny explained it’s inspired from his trips to bluffs along the Pacific Coast Trail and the Native American middens found there.
“There’s just this beauty about sustenance from the ocean,” he said. “And it’s reusing a natural element.”
Davenny also explained that he’s incorporated light into many of the small shelters. “So many picnic shelters are so gloomy that you want to get out of them quickly,” he said.
After the discussion, Carol Dean commented that Seawall Park is an under-utilized asset of Langley and needs attention.
“The plan seems well thought out, and it seems to fit with the basic Langley feng shui,” she said with a laugh. “I agree the missing component is a bathroom but being in construction I also know it’s a huge, expensive proposition.”
Preparing the site, laying down a promenade and constructing the various shelters would be done in four phases over several years.
Total cost is estimated at $237,000 but could possibly increase with rising construction costs. Funding from grants, private donations and other sources will be pursued for materials and installation. The first fundraiser is Sept. 29.
The park’s concrete wall was constructed in 1976 on reclaimed land that granted the city easement rights, Mayor Tim Callison explained.
A staircase was also built on the park’s east end that leads up to the Boy and Dog statue.
Private owners of restaurants and businesses on First Street own the land that slopes down the bluff and extends several feet onto the flat strip up to the park boundary. So the city’s share is very narrow, 12 to 15 feet in some places, Callison said.
The mayor said he’s discussing the park proposal with adjacent landowners as uniform easement is needed in order to accommodate emergency vehicles.