Island County bans parking near Navy's Outlying Field

Island County sign supervisor Jeff Barkhausen and sign tech Mike Allen place a sign on Patmore Road Tuesday morning. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Island County sign supervisor Jeff Barkhausen and sign tech Mike Allen place a sign on Patmore Road Tuesday morning.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Some newly installed no-parking signs will spell the end of a Whidbey Island pastime popular with thrill seekers and airplane enthusiasts.

Two men from the Island County Public Works put up the signs Tuesday morning on portions of Patmore and Keystone roads bordering the Navy’s Outlying Field south of Coupeville. The signs read “no parking any time” and are meant to prevent accidents.

For decades, people parked their cars near the small airstrip to watch the pilots of the Navy’s EA-6B Prowlers practice “touch-and-go” landings. It was especially thrilling on Patmore Road, which is just yards off the end of the runway. The jets haven’t gained much altitude as they scream overhead.

But at an Island County Commissioners’ meeting in April, Assistant County Engineer Randy Brackett announced that Navy officials requested the county put up no-parking signs because of safety concerns. He noted that the landing practice attracts a lot of visitors.

“Having been there and watched myself, it’s quite exciting,” he said.

Brackett said cars parked in the area, especially near the runway’s clear zone, pose a hazard to both the pilots and onlookers.

“Small pieces of metal can fall off the aircraft,” he said. “They are old aircraft.”

Kim Martin, public affairs officer for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said Navy officials are also concerned about incidents over the past few years of trespassing and vandalism at the field.

Martin cites three examples: a bullet hole in the door of the tactical air navigation system; deep ruts caused by offroad vehicles doing “donuts” in the grass at the end of the runway, which can cause extensive damage to the aircraft if a pilot overruns the airstrip; and $10,400 worth of damage to the cross runway pendant or “wire” that catches the tailhook.

Since the county has budget problems, the Navy built and donated the signs. And as a sign installer pointed out, spectators can still park elsewhere and walk to the area.

The commissioners approved the new ordinance, which directs the installation of the signs and allows law enforcement to enforce the parking restriction.

“It’s a necessary measure and I’m excited to put it in place,” Commissioner Angie Homola said.

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