Walkway plans aired

A waterfront walkway that has existed for eons in the planning phase faced public scrutiny at Wednesday night’s Oak Harbor Planning Commission meeting.

The path, effectively connecting Windjammer and Flintstone parks, would utilize the full potential of the waterfront as a community amenity, said Rob Voigt, a city senior planner.

Seeking a Shoreline Development Permit, city planning staff described the path’s specifics, assuring the commissioners that the walkway was designed to leave “as light a footprint as possible” on the more environmentally-sensitive areas. Voigt also maintained that the bulkhead would not be disturbed.

“Not only would that increase the potential liability for the city, it would be a stupid thing to do,” he said of compromising the bulkhead.

The project has been designed to meet all requirements of the Shoreline Master Program, development guidelines passed down from the state Department of Ecology. For the stretch of walkway neighboring the Waterside Condominiums and other residences, easements were purchased and donated with specific stipulations attached including height and lighting regulations.

For the largest portion of the trail, a pier-like design would have the path floating slightly above the ground, thereby minimizing adverse environmental effects. Holes would be drilled to provide a foundation by which the walkway can be placed on top. No grading would be necessary, Voigt added.

“We’re not going to be digging up that environment,” he said. “The intent is not to create any damage to the gateway.”

Nearer to Flintstone Park, construction will be easier and less technical given the nature of the property and its existing uses.

Stairs or ramps proposed for the bulkhead to allow beach access would relegate use to ambulatory trail users, several community members agreed.

“It’s not a good project right now as planned,” said a Waterside Condominium resident. Jo Ann Sample, who owns a ground-level condo but lives in Friday Harbor, did not oppose the project, but expressed concerns that the stairs would impact her view and drastically lessen privacy.

“I’m opposed to having my view blocked,” she said.

While going through the State Environmental Policy Act requirements, several spots on the map were either mislabeled or omitted. The public hearing, therefore, was continued until the planning commission’s Jan. 22 meeting.

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