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Oak Harbor attorney’s advice dashes hopes of kayak event owner

The North Whidbey Park and Recreation District commissioners have decided not to move forward with purchasing the Deception Pass Dash, a kayak race that takes place every December.

Bill Walker, who is both the executive director of the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District and owner of the business that organized the challenging kayak race, consulted with the district’s attorney, Nathan Manni, about the district purchasing his race.

While he said he was advised the proposal was perfectly legal, the lawyer reportedly was mystified by the financial aspects of the proposal.

Walker said the attorney pointed out that there was “no intrinsic value of a park and recreation district owning the event.”

“He felt it wasn’t in the best interest of the district when we could create it for free,” Walker said.

The Deception Pass Dash takes place every December and attracts approximately 200 kayakers and needs around 50 volunteers. The Dash is composed of a six-mile course through the difficult waters of Deception and Canoe passes. The race starts in Bowman Bay, over to Strawberry Island and back to Bowman Bay, which is located on Fidalgo Island.

Walker said several people expressed concerns about the park district owning such an event. Some were concerned about a Whidbey-based entity holding an event in Skagit County while a resident attended Thursday’s commissioner meeting to argue that the park district doesn’t need the additional liability of the kayak race.

Walker agreed with people’s concerns. He added that he was uncomfortable broaching the possible purchase with the commissioners. The idea apparently came up when he was interviewing for the position.

As for the race, which has been held every year since 2006, Walker said he hopes to find an entity to organize the race in 2012. He is in the process of closing down his business, Ruby Creek Boathouse. He said he isn’t sure what kind of financial arrangement could be set up for another business to operate the dash, but he’s had interest from other businesses.

The commissioners initially seemed open to the idea of the district taking over the Dash. “That’s the kind of thing the park district should be involved in,” Commissioner Harvey Prosser said during Thursday’s district meeting.

However, the board heeded the attorney’s concerns and declined to pursue the matter.

 

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