Opinion

Oak Harbor residents should fight for Flintstone Park | Sound Off

By Paul Newman

If you want to preserve Flintstone Park, the beautiful vest pocket park which contains the Flintstone-mobile, the park from which the scenic walking path along Oak Harbor’s waterfront branches off, please attend the public hearing before the City Council Tuesday, July 12, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

The city proposes to erect a 2,325-square-foot “multipurpose building with meeting rooms and restroom facilities (plus) an additional 525-square-foot picnic shelter (plus) a plaza (plus) a paved parking area (plus) a circular driveway. .... The existing picnic shelter and restrooms will be demolished.” (City notice.)

I live close by the park. I can testify the picnic facilities are well used, but never crammed to overflowing, and the restrooms are easily adequate. If they need refurbishing, refurbish, don’t demolish. It’s cheaper, and it will preserve the character of a beautiful open space.

When I mentioned this to a sitting city council member, I was told: “Don’t worry, it’s not your money.” Excuse me? The money is coming from taxpayers. Whether all of them live in Oak Harbor is not the point! If the funds were secured from grants for the “bait and switch” pier project, and are being bootlegged for other purposes, that doesn’t make it not my money, or yours. And, you can bet, the money to maintain this complex, year after year, will be all ours!

When I suggested that a wonderful new “multipurpose building and covered picnic shelter” might be just the thing for City Beach Park, which could use them, I was told: “There’s no room in City Beach Park.” Hello? If the city is demolishing structures in Flintstone Park, it can sure as shooting demolish an outdated structure in City Beach Park. Unless this is part of a complicated con job, where the city has to spend grant money for the mythical pier, in the area the pier was supposed to occupy.

Sadly, our city council has not proven efficient stewards of public monies and projects in recent times. Oak Harbor taxpayers have spent hundreds of thousands on studies to guide us to the best use of our waterfront area. Not one of them advised the city council to vote for the placement of the Element, a noisy and trouble-producing gambling casino, smack dab between our youth baseball fields, teen-magnet bus depot, Flintstone Park picnic area, and peaceful waterfront condos. See the July 6 Whidbey News-Times article to refresh yourselves on this issue.

Even more recently, the council spearheaded the Demolition Derby on Pioneer Avenue to convert it to one-way traffic. Funny, I don’t recall studies demonstrating the business blight on Pioneer was the result of two-way traffic. As to ignoring advice to check for Native American bones before committing hard earned tax dollars, the fiasco speaks for itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I know and respect many city council members. I have done business with Jim Slowik for decades, and found him a man of integrity and good will. I can say the same for Jim Palmer. I have not done business with Rick Almberg, but my social contacts with him convince me he is a person of intelligence and ability. I’m sure every other council member is trying to do good as they see it.

My point is this: Even good people get things wrong every so often. Destroying the character of Flintstone Park under the guise of improvement ... because we have “someone else’s money” to do it with ... is another bad decision. Let’s help the city council to reject this one.

Paul Newman, a retired political consultant, lives in Oak Harbor.

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