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2003: Year in review

January

The Port of Coupeville finished a project that added two 24-foot floats and four moorage buoys to the wharf.

NAS Whidbey received its first allotment of smallpox vaccine and started inoculating sailors.

The Oak Harbor City Council voted unanimously to cut down the old oak tree at the post office.

A crowd assembled in Oak Harbor to protest the pending war with Iraq.

Oak Harbor school teachers closed schools to a join march for higher pay in Olympia.

Coupeville teachers held a “day of action” at home, rather than closing school to march in Olympia.

Homecoming for VAQ-139 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln was delayed as the aircraft carrier’s deployment was extended due to brewing war in the Middle East.

Orca whales were described as “depleted,” rather than endangered, by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

February

Services were held at NAS Whidbey for William McCool, 41, a former pilot there who was piloting the Space Shuttle Columbia when it broke up over Texas during re-entry, killing all 7 astronauts aboard.

Sno-Isle Regional Library’s attempt to raise its property tax levy failed at the polls.

A large rally was held in Oak Harbor to show support for the troops.

Elmer Alvarada, a 32-year-old Navy petty officer, died in an automobile crash just south of Oak Harbor.

The Oak Harbor Lodge of the International Possum Brotherhood was created.

A Prowler jet from VAQ-129 was lost at sea off the coast of Southern California when it plunged off the deck of the carrier USS John C. Stennis. The three-member crew escaped without serious injuries.

The VAQ-135 Scorpions were deployed to join the USS Nimitz Carrier Battle Group in the Arabian Gulf. It was the eighth Whidbey squadron deployed in the past few months.

March

Gasoline price hikes caused public concern as they neared $2 a gallon in Oak Harbor.

Oak Harbor voters rejected a $45 million bond issue to build a new high school. It needed 60 percent yes votes to pass but received only 53 percent.

NAS Whidbey deployments totaled 8 Prowler squadrons, 2 P-3 squadrons, and about 1,000 sailors, waiting for war to start.

Navy wives led a March on Oak Harbor to show support for the troops. It occurred March 21, two days after the war in Iraq commenced.

Oak Harbor’s First Reformed Church celebrated its 100th birthday.

Jeremy Steinsiek, a war protester, was assaulted as he stood on the corner of Highway 20 and Barrington Drive.

Controversy arose over North Whidbey Park and Recreation District’s decision to give $20,000 to the Boys & girls Clubs of Oak Harbor.

Jack Marion, a local Garry oak expert, urged that the tree by the post office not be cut down.

Oak Harbor surveyed cable customers of Comcast, and nearly all the 250 responses were negative.

Casual House in downtown Oak Harbor celebrated 40 years of dressing island women.

April

The 10th District delegation to Olympia joined the vast majority in passing a 5 cent per gallon gas tax increase.

A group, Friends of Krueger Farm, formed in Coupeville in an effort to buy the farm and spare it from development.

Sunni Muslims dressed in traditional Middle Eastern garb visited Whidbey Island for a reunion hosted by Coupeville area residents Farooq and Leah Jaswal.

Oak Harbor residents James and Tracey Wright were sentenced to 15 and 20 years in prison, respectively, on child pornography charges.

Oak Harbor was festooned with yellow ribbons by supporters of troops involved in the U.S. effort in Iraq.

Island County adopted a plan to deal with the West Nile Virus, should it ever arrive here.

Coupeville United Methodist Church celebrated 150 years of existence.

A 42-year-old woman protesting the war in Coupeville was assaulted by a man who erroneously thought she was desecrating the flag.

Oak Harbor City Council approved spending nearly $1 million to improve Fort Nugent Park.

Two high risk sex offenders who planned to move to Oak Harbor changed their plans following a community protest meeting.

Controversy erupted when Jim Shulock was dismissed as Park District director on a 3-2 vote by the commissioners.

The swimming pool staff announced they would close the pool in protest, but later relented.

Oak Harbor Middle School classmates mourned the sudden death of a friend, Matt Terrill.

May

Roy Evans, 93, a Boy Scout leader on Whidbey Island for four decades, was honored by the Masonic Lodge.

John Dyer resigned from Oak Harbor School Board.

Coupeville Town Councilman Philip Williamson died after a long battle with cancer.

Island County purchased 300 acres of wetland and bird habitat at Deer Lagoon.

A number of dead porpoises washed up on island beaches, including one on Whidbey, causing environmentalists to wonder if Navy sonar was to blame.

The Boys and Girls Club rejected $20,000 offered by the Park District, due to the controversial nature of the donation.

The $45 million school bond proposal failed for the second time, with less support than the first effort in February.

An Oak Harbor woman living on NE Ninth Avenue complained that her gnomes were being stolen.

Pacific Northwest Bank, which started in Oak Harbor as Island Savings & Loan, announced it was being taken over by Wells Fargo.

The new Quiet Room for prayer and meditation, paid for through donations, opened at Whidbey General Hospital.

Washington State Ferries CEO Mike Thorne said plans to move or enlarge the Keystone ferry landing were moving ahead.

Oak Harbor City Councilman Richard Davis’ bird, a macaw named Isabelle, flew away but was eventually caught by a Wal-Mart employee.

An unusually large outbreak of tent caterpillars plagued island orchardists.

David McCool was named to the Oak Harbor school board.

Secretary of Navy Hansford Johnson named the EA-18G “Growler” as the eventual replacement for the Prowler, which is the mainstay at NAS Whidbey.

June

Illegally dumped chemicals forced the temporary closure of Sleeper Road while cleanup was completed.

Coupeville High School graduated its 100th class.

Oak Hall, the newest addition to Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Campus, opened officially, bringing 36,000 additional square feet of space.

Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Lane Campbell was honored for stopping a man from jumping off Deception Pass Bridge.

Nichols Brothers in Freeland laid the keel for the Navy’s X-Craft, which will carry troops, vehicles, 2 helicopter, and perhaps missiles.

Island County announced plans to work toward having Highways 20 and 525 declared a National Scenic Byway.

With most Prowler squadrons back from the Iraq war, Oak Harbor hosted a huge “welcome home picnic” at City Beach Park.

Whidbey General Hospital, hurting from budget problems, announced jobs would have to be eliminated.

Joe Keeva was appointed to the Coupeville City Council.

Plans were announced to restore the historic San de Fuca school.

To save money, Whidbey General Hospital closed its dental clinic in Oak Harbor.

July

Coupeville’s Planning Commission approved zoning changes that would allow development of the 33-acre Krueger Farm, while preserving some land as open space.

Washington State Ferries completed a years-long effort to rebuild the Clinton ferry dock.

4th of July celebrations were even more patriot than usual due to the Iraq war.

Coupeville’s town planner, Larry Cort, quit to take a planning job in Oak Harbor.

A search and rescue helicopter from NAS Whidbey saved a hiker stranded on a ledge in the North Cascades.

Tom Roehl, longtime community leader in Central Whidbey, died at the age of 56.

Oak Harbor’s City Beach Park suffered $3,000 in vandalism.

Two people and a dog from Idaho survived the crash of a Cessna 525 jet plane into Penn Cove.

Island County approved the purchase of a trailhead and wetland in Oak Harbor for conservation purposes.

A group formed with the intent of recalling two North Whidbey Park and Recreation District commissioners.

Whidbey General Hospital hired Jan Rose to recruit doctors to the island.

Four Prowler aviators from VAQ-135 survived unhurt when their airplane crashed into the Persian Gulf during routine flight operations.

Friends of Krueger Farm reached a purchase agreement with the owners, pending the success of a fundraising effort.

August

Fire danger was hiked to high as the island was experiencing its driest summer since 1994.

Craig Carlson was hired as the new director of the Park District.

Ed Spromberg, vocal foe of concerts in Coupeville’s Town Park, was arrested for starting his riding lawnmower during a concert.

Sno-Isle Regional Library announced all libraries would close for a week in 2004 if its next levy hike attempt failed.

A sewer pipe leak at Whidbey General Hospital forced closure of one wing for several days.

State funding of $1.5 million was in jeopardy as Greenbank Farm management group and Port of Coupeville struggled to come up with a lease agreement.

Coupeville resident Mike Sullivan was shocked when someone stole the large rock that for years protected his water well.

Harmon Killibrew, Bob Feller and other baseball legends visited NAS Whidbey.

State authorities toured Whidbey Island ferry docks, exploring ways to protect ferries from terrorism.

Wal-Mart was evacuated due to a bomb scare which proved to be groundless.

Newly remodeled Broad View Elementary was ready to welcome students for the new year.

The owner of the carnival at the Island County Fair was killed when he became entangled in the machinery of an amusement ride.

Admiralty Head Lighthouse was feted with tours, conferences and music on its 100th birthday.

St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Oak Harbor protested the selection of a gay bishop by a diocese in New Hampshire.

Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair announced she will run for Congress.

State lawmakers toured NAS Whidbey as part of an effort to protect the base from being included on a closure list.

Robert Cook, 41, of Coupeville, died in a motorcycle accident on Highway 525.

Plans by Seattle Pacific University to expand its Camp Casey facilities were dealt a setback by the Washington Growth Management Hearing Board invalidated the rezone approved by Island County.

Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley’ second novel, “Silent Proof,” hit the bookstores.

Whidbey General Hospital’s board asked candidate Dr. Paul Zaveruha to withdraw from the election race, due to conflict of interest concerns. Zaveruha heads the hospital’s Emergency Services department.

Krista Janes-Blackburn, Oak Harbor’s economic development coordinator, quit for a job elsewhere.

September

Councilman Eric Gerber quit the race for Oak Harbor mayor, citing family difficulties.

Coupeville held a town photo shoot as part of its 150th birthday celebration.

Coupeville School District announced a campaign to build a new high school.

Oak Harbor football fans had to go to Coupeville to watch a “home” game after the Memorial Stadium stands were condemned.

Washington State Ferries liked the results of a Keystone feasibility study, and said it would proceed with finding a site for a new terminal.

The recall effort against the Park District commissioners ended when the issue couldn’t get on the November ballot due to delays.

Alumni returned to the newly restored San de Fuca school 70 years after it was closed.

Donations from Island County and private citizens saved the Davis Slough Heron Rookery on Camano Island.

Nineteen EA-6B Prowlers, 10 of which were based at Whidbey, were grounded due to wing crack concerns.

Seabolt’s started work on a new seafood store in Oak Harbor.

Rustlers were suspected of taking 25 alpacas from the Greenbank Farm herd. It turned out to be an ownership dispute and the animals were later returned.

A new off-leash dog park was opened off Ault Field Road.

The school district demolished the old North Whidbey Middle School.

October

The Navy announced Outlying Field Coupeville would be closed in October, and then in April and May, for repair work.

Four police cars were damaged and two police officers suffered minor injuries as they tried to stop a truck and trailer in a “slow speed chase” from Oak Harbor to beyond Deception Pass.

Langley and Oak Harbor started bickering about how much each supports the islandwide tourism effort.

A “Stadium Team” was appointed to come up with a plan to fix or replace Memorial Stadium bleachers.

An auto accident on Silver Lake Road killed 19-year-old Navy man Adam Clinton.

The Island County coroner was able to identify the remains of Daniel Macinnis, who died in a wooded area 12 years ago.

After a long, hot summer, high winds and rain finally hit Whidbey.

NAS Whidbey Sailors and Marines battled successfully to save the town’s water supply from the flooding Skagit River.

Felony cases in Island County have doubled over the last six years, Prosecutor Greg Banks told the county commissioners in a budgeting session.

Two bats in Island County tested positive for rabies.

Glenn Vallance, an Oak Harbor man who was caretaker of South Whidbey State Park, died when a tree fell on him during a windstorm.

November

Authorities cleaned up a meth manufacturing operation in a house on Fort Nugent Road, after having arrested a number of suspects for meth-related crimes.

Despite opposition from the hospital board, elections results overwhelmingly favored Dr. Paul Zaveruha in the race for a board position. Patty Cohen won re-election as Oak Harbor’s mayor, and the library levy passed.

Teens announced plans to start a gay support group at Oak Harbor High School.

The new Island County Veterans Memorial in Coupeville saw its first Veterans Day ceremony.

Oak Harbor’s football team hosted its “home” state playoff game at Mount Vernon.

Washington State Ferries received no bids on a galley contract, possibly ending food service on ferries by the end of the year.

The first Habitat for Humanity house build in the Oak Harbor city limits was started by a crew of volunteers.

County health officials advised islanders to get flu shots, as the season had started earlier than usual.

Twenty-one people became U.S. citizens at a NAS Whidbey ceremony.

More than 2,500 meals were served at Oak Harbor’s free community Thanksgiving dinner.

Island County announced it will double Economic Development Council funding in 2004.

The Memorial Stadium stands were demolished by the same company that tore down North Whidbey Middle School.

Pansy McClung, 73, died in a head-on collision on Highway 20.

Mariners Cove residents saved Louise Boundy, 94, from a fire at her house.

December

Four suspects were charged with the kidnapping and beating of a 23 year-old Oak Harbor woman in a case thought to be drug related.

Oak Harbor City Council voted to stop funding the countywide tourism program.

Six Oak Harbor youth ran 30 miles to Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Burlington to help a cross country teammate who is battling cancer.

Flu vaccine disappeared in Island County due to the nationwide panic.

Jack Hartt took over as manager of Deception Pass State Park, replacing long-time manager Bill Overby.

Larry Kwarsick, former Island County planning director, was hired as Coupeville’s new town planner.

Islanders largely offered negative comments when State Ferries held a meeting to explain its Keystone terminal study.

The Department of Defense released the criteria that will be used in selecting bases that will be closed.

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