Think before paving paradise in Greenbank | Editorial
June 22, 2012 · Updated 2:09 PM
Many decision makers in Island County are of a certain age that they remember singer Joni Mitchell and her song “Big Yellow Taxi,” which contained the famous lyric, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
As a result, Island County and Port of Coupeville officials should be squirming a bit when they discuss construction of a parking lot at the publicly owned Greenbank Farm. This particular parking lot isn’t attached to a hotel or some other ugly development; it’s for a politically correct commuter park and ride parking lot. So it’s not shameful to consider putting up a parking lot at the Greenbank Farm. It would benefit Central Whidbey residents who live too far away from Coupeville and Freeland commuter parking lots, take more cars off the road, reduce the number of cars on the ferries, and save commuters the cost of gasoline and vehicle ferry tickets.
However, islanders may never have rallied to save the Greenbank Farm from development if “commuter parking lot” had been announced as one of the planned uses. It was always meant as open space, with some commercial activity in the old and new barns, and experimental farming.
While we’re not against a commuter parking lot at the farm if there’s no choice and it’s tucked into an out-of-the-way corner, it might be worth considering a location previously rejected.
A number of years ago, the Department of Transportation wanted to turn the Lake Hancock scenic overlook, adjacent to the north end of the Greenbank Farm, into a commuter lot. The public reached angrily, not wanting to give up one of the best roadway views on the island. But since then, trees planted by the Navy between the highway and Lake Hancock (actually a saltwater marsh) have grown ever taller. The overlook no longer affords a view of Lake Hancock. The Lions Club’s big, plywood map of islands and other geographic features that could be seen is largely irrelevant today. Only a strip of Admiralty Inlet and the top of the Olympic Mountains are visible. Naturalists posted pictures of plants that could be seen in the “salt marsh community.” Now, nothing can be seen but tall firs.
Today, the scenic overlook parking area is largely used by dog owners who want to take Fido on a romp through the fields of the Greenbank Farm. Why not just improve it for a park and ride lot, since the scenery we all used to love is largely invisible today. That way, we won’t have to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.