Garden Club questions future of Hal Ramaley park

Plans for a new Hilton to alter Hal Ramaley Memorial Park has propelled it into the spotlight.

Plans for a new Hilton hotel to border, overlap or alter the boundaries of Hal Ramaley Memorial Park on Bayshore Drive in Oak Harbor has propelled the small park into the community spotlight.

Hal Ramaley Memorial Park was first dedicated in 1990 in part with Oak Harbor Garden Club funds and Rotary Club labor. It was later renovated and formally adopted by the garden club for ongoing maintenance.

According to Ray Lindenburg, the city’s senior planner, the land was once part of Windjammer Park, connected to where the baseball fields are now. When the city built a road through the parcel, Hal Ramaley became a separate, disconnected park.

Hal Ramaley was a popular Clover Valley Elementary School principal and city leader. He moved to town in 1952 and taught in the World War II Quonset huts. Many recall his common smile and relaxed demeanor. After 30 years of teaching, Ramaley envisioned the Dutch windmill near City Beach, now considered an Oak Harbor staple. He loved to square dance and read, but all was second to gardening. He worked hard to beautify the city before he passed on in 1986.

During the park dedication in 1990, former Councilmember Mike Milat said he didn’t like naming parks after individuals, but Ramaley was an outstanding exception.

In the 2000s, the garden club installed a gazebo, but due to vandalization it was moved to the marina, where it sits today. Over the decades, the club has likely spent over $30,000 and thousands of hours on park improvements and maintenance, said Kathy Chalfant, a longtime member.

Since the park was created, the garden club weeds and cleans it up, plants flowers, installs garden art and trellises and more, she said.

The Hilton development has been frustrating, Chalfant said, as a December plan proposes changing boundary lines, and none of the people who manage the park have been consulted.

“To me, the Hilton wins, and the citizens of Oak Harbor lose,” she said. “If you change those boundary lines, you’re losing the community garden and how we’re mainly using it. It’s really going to become part of the Hilton.”

A park swap to ensure an equivalent park use would be reasonable, Chalfant said, but this has yet to be proposed.

The City of Oak Harbor values and appreciates the garden club’s contributions to the park, Magi Aguilar, communication officer, wrote in an email. The club’s dedication and investment over the years has been instrumental in shaping not just the park but businesses and open spaces in the community.

The city is committed to ensuring that all stakeholders have an opportunity to express their concerns through public comments, Aguilar said. Council will discuss ordinance 1999, which considers removing a public vote to dispose of parkland, at a future workshop and looks forward to more public engagement during that process.

A former sign of Hal Ramaley Memorial Park rises above flowers. (Photo provided)
The lot of Hal Ramaley Memorial Park sitting before any work by the Oak Harbor Garden Club and Rotary Club. (Photo provided)

The lot of Hal Ramaley Memorial Park sitting before any work by the Oak Harbor Garden Club and Rotary Club. (Photo provided)