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Whidbey residents offer comments on Island County transportation options

Tim Verschuyl and Garrett Newkirk discuss the county’s various transportation elements at  one of last week’s public meeting. A third meeting will be held on Camano Island Thursday night. - Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Tim Verschuyl and Garrett Newkirk discuss the county’s various transportation elements at one of last week’s public meeting. A third meeting will be held on Camano Island Thursday night.
— image credit: Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Island County’s top priorities should be transportation that encourages tourism and expands existing transit services, according to some residents.

Island County kicked off a series of transportation-related public meetings last week, attracting folks with a wide berth of priorities.

“The two meetings we’ve had so far have been really good,” said Doug Cox, transportation planner for Island County. “I’m impressed with how many people made time to come to them. It’s encouraging to see how engaged our residents are.”

Meetings were held last week in Freeland, which drew more than 40 participants, and Oak Harbor, which had approximately 30 attendees.

A third meeting will be held 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Camano Multi-purpose Center. Two additional sets of meetings will be held again throughout the county as the process moves forward.

More than a few beach access supporters at the Oak Harbor meeting stressed the importance of proper signage at beach access points and parks to ensure that the areas are clearly marked.

“I want to see Island County do more for signage to show people where our beaches and public parks,” said Jane Seymour. In some parts of the county, she said, “the signage is very limited.”

Tim Verschuyl expressed concerns about how the Navy population is affecting traffic patterns and contributing to pollution.

Other priorities included pedestrian and bicycle path access, Island Transit and ride sharing, and reducing impacts on the environment.

A few of those in attendance at the first meeting in Freeland became upset because they thought they would be given a chance to “testify” and have their comments recorded.

While residents are free to email comments and fill out comment cards at the meeting, some were disappointed that they weren’t given a chance to speak.

Commissioner Jill Johnson, who attended both meetings, sent an email to staff after the first meeting, offering suggestions on how they could make residents feel heard. The second meeting had a lengthened question-and-answer period.

“There was an improvement in the amount of time everyone was allowed to speak in the second meeting,” Johnson said. “It’s the first round of meetings and I think they were just getting their sea legs.”

Cox said moving forward the county plans to be more clear about the format and objectives of the public meetings.

“I got the sense that some residents feel that if their comment is not said out loud in front of an audience, it doesn’t count,” Cox said. “But that’s not the case at all. Whether you write it on paper, email it, discuss it with us on the phone or in person, we want your input.”

Washington counties are required by law to update their Comprehensive Plan every eight years. As part of that update, the county must gather public input from Island County residents about the county’s transportation services.

“At this stage, you have people who are very passionate about different issues showing up,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping to see broader community participation. We live with this plan for eight years.”

Comments and questions can be emailed to Cox at d.cox@co.island.com.

 

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