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A few of our favorite scenes

Whether it is beautiful views from Deception Pass bridge or the slice of Americana that is Blue Fox Drive-in, Whidbey Island is a beautiful place.

County residents are speaking out this week through a series of community meetings about what views on the island are the best.

That input will be used to develop a Corridor Management Plan, which is a step in having the highway on Whidbey Island labeled as a National Scenic Byway.

Approximately 10 people showed up at the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Monday evening to give their input about the plan.

Officials from Otak, Inc., a Seattle-based consulting firm hired by the county to produce the plan, are barnstorming their way down the island this week. They are meeting with local governments and community groups during the day and the public at night.

Otak produced similar plans for such roadways as Highway 410 and the “Volcanic Legacy Corridor” that stretches from southern Oregon to northern California.

The purpose of the plan is to “enhance visitors’ experience while preserving the quality of life for Island County residents,” said Mandi Roberts, a principal at Otak.

Among those in attendance at the Monday evening meeting included Oak Harbor Senior Planner Larry Cort and City Councilwoman Sue Karahalios.

Although planners were looking for input for the plan, some at the meeting wanted to know what the plan will accomplish.

Roberts said that the management plan makes the county eligible for grants and also increases the chance of receiving such money.

She also stressed the importance of the community meeting process.

“It’s not our plan, it’s your plan,” Roberts said.

Some people wanted the plan to encourage lengthy visits to the area.

Rita Kuller, executive director of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, said that too many visitors simply drive the island.

“It’s a horrible experience for the visitor and it’s terrible for the residents,” Kuller said.

One thing Karahalios suggested might bring in visitors would be an interpretive center on the south side of town, complementing Oak Harbor’s trail system.

Mike Morton, the county’s Scenic Corridor Management Plan coordinator, said two of the more popular suggestions have been installing a rest stop or a scenic overlook.

One of the more interesting suggestions that came up in another meeting is to preserve the Greenbank phone booth, Morton said. That Whidbey Island Telephone Co. booth is considered by many the dividing marker between North and South Whidbey.

Otak officials were in Coupeville yesterday and then head down south this evening for a meeting at the Bayview Hall beginning at 7 p.m. They will use the information to begin the Corridor Management Plan and then return to meet with the public again in April to discuss initial findings.

Morton said the community decides whether the county should get designated a National Scenic Byway.

He added that such a designation would give Whidbey Island some national exposure and increase the number of visitors to the area.

The Corridor Management Plan should be complete by the end of the year and is being funded by a $70,000 federal grant and contributions by all three cities, the county and Island Transit.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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