No evidence supports the idea, expressed by some locals, that Oak Harbor would become a “ghost town” if the Navy were to leave Whidbey Island. Tourism would complete the long, narrow paradise that is now cut in two by the island’s least attractive feature for most tourists.
For years, the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce had a trailer at Deception Pass, staffed by volunteers, to encourage visitors to continue southward to enjoy the benefits of Oak Harbor. The trailer no longer serves that function.
Brochures on the ferries that serve Whidbey Island have maps that show only the south half of the island because nothing of interest exists north of Coupeville. Most tourism guides don’t even mention Oak Harbor. The Navy terminated the popular parasailing activity at Ebey’s Landing, citing conflicts with air traffic at the Outlying Field, and no whale-watching tours originate between Deception Pass and Coupeville.
The air station’s infrastructure and existing runways would encourage relocation or expansion of industries (like Boeing) that would pay better than the Navy, temper tourism’s seasonal nature, and encourage continuous community involvement.
Not only does Oak Harbor have the lowest per capita income of any municipality on the island, but per capita income increases roughly in proportion to distance from Oak Harbor, so why does anyone think having no naval air station at all would make things worse?