Editorial: Future bright for Oak Harbor

A bright future awaits Oak Harbor now that the base closure threat has been lifted.

The threat lingered over our heads like a dark cloud for years. Certainly, no one felt that Whidbey Island Naval Air Station would find itself on the base closure list, but that’s what they were saying in other Navy towns that weren’t so fortunate when the list was announced Friday — Groton, Conn., with its huge and historic New Long Submarine Base New London, and Bangor, Maine, with Portsmouth Naval Shipyard of Portsmouth, for example.

People have been talking about the latest round of base closures since it was first mentioned in 1997 by William S. Cohen, who was Secretary of Defense at the time. The round became official when Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked that it be conducted when he took office in January 2001.

So in one form or another, base closure has been a threat to Oak Harbor for eight years. The community rallied early at the county, city and business levels to make the case in Washington, D.C. that NAS Whidbey is vital to our nation’s defense. All involved did an outstanding job in making known the unique contributions that NAS Whidbey has to offer. The powers that be in Washington, D.C. listened, and Oak Harbor can now rest easy after eight long years of concern and hard work.

With the base secure for years to come, Oak Harbor and Island County leaders can plan optimistically for the future. It appears that the area’s rapid growth will continue, which calls for careful planning, recruitment of clean manufacturing and scientific businesses to provide good jobs in the community, and a serious commitment to assure that future residents have plenty of pristine open spaces, beaches, forests and agricultural lands to enjoy.

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