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North Whidbey Park and Recreation District asked to take over director’s kayak dash
One of the first things Bill Walker is doing as new director of the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District is to float a plan for the taxpayer-funded district to take over his kayak race.
The newly hired executive director is writing a proposal for the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District to purchase and continue organizing the Deception Pass Dash, a kayak race that takes place in December. Walker will present his proposal during a commissioners meeting Thursday.
Walker said the idea of the park district taking over the kayak race came up during interviews for the position he was eventually hired for. He said the commissioners were looking at ways to expand programs offered by the park district. Primarily, the district operates the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool.
Scott Vogt, president of the board of commissioners for the park district, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Walker contacted the Whidbey News-Times about the possibility of the district taking over the race. He said he felt a little awkward about the situation. He is the owner of the event while he is negotiating with his employer, which is funded by tax dollars, for the purchase and sale of the kayak race.
Walker has owned and organized the Deception Pass Dash since 2010 through his business, Ruby Creek Boathouse. Since he took the position with the park district, Walker has been busy closing his business.
The Deception Pass Dash attracts approximately 200 kayakers yearly. In addition, the event needs 50 volunteers. Walker said it attracts visitors to Whidbey Island during a typically slow time of the year for hotels and stores in the area.
The race, which has taken place every year since 2006, is held on a six-mile course. It starts in Bowman Bay, goes to Strawberry Island and back to Bowman Day, which is located on the Fidalgo Island side of Deception Pass State Park.
Walker explained why the dash takes place in December. The late-autumn event doesn’t have to compete with the pleasure boaters and fishermen that clog the picturesque pass during the summer months.
In addition, the unpredictable weather and unusual currents make it attractive for competitive kayakers. Last year, the dash expanded to a two-day event. The first day was a vendor exposition with a free clinic while the race took place on the second day.
Walker said that between the sponsorship dollars and the registration fees, he has operated the event slightly in the black in recent years.
He’s still trying to determine a dollar amount for his proposal. He owes money from the previous owner of the dash — the Outdoor Adventure Center. Between the debt and the compensation he would hope to receive, the cost shouldn’t exceed $10,000, he said.
If the commissioners for the park district decide against purchasing the Deception Pass Dash, then he would look to sell the event to another commercial organization.
The next North Whidbey Park and Recreation District meeting will be Thursday, July 12, at 7 p.m. at the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool located at 85 SE Jerome St. in Oak Harbor.