Town moves forward with wooden boardwalk, parking

Coupeville will keep parking spots on Main Street and use wood to pave the Front Street Boardwalk.

Though the Tuesday council meeting did not involve a formal vote, the town of Coupeville plans to use real wood to pave the Front Street Boardwalk and to keep the parking spots on Main Street, building a sidewalk and wall next to the Haller House property.

The project, which comprises the construction of the sidewalk and the restoration of the boardwalk, is estimated to cost $700,000, with 37% covered by a grant from the Washington Transportation Improvement Board.

Currently, Mayor Molly Hughes said Tuesday, the town is late for the bidding process as some council members requested to discuss the project again on that day. The council members, Hughes said, were either new to some details provided during the May 14 meeting or found that some information had changed since the public meeting held the week prior.

The intention is to begin construction in the fall, though details about the timeline and methods used will become clear once the town finds a contractor, Hughes said in a previous interview.

Coupeville has been in the process of connecting gaps between walkways and that involves the section of Main Street adjacent to the Haller House property.

The dilemma revolved around deciding whether to preserve parking spaces or maintain the historical integrity of the Haller House property.

As explained on May 7 by Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue Chief Jerry Helm, constructing a sidewalk over the three parking spots while still keeping the spots is not feasible as it wouldn’t allow fire engines to reach the three-story McPherson building in case of a fire.

Therefore, the town could either build over the existing parking spots and remove parking from that side of the road altogether or build a sidewalk that extends over a supporting wall on the Haller House side and keep the parking space, Grogan explained in an interview.

The concrete wall will be approximately 4 feet tall and 50 feet long, he said.

On May 14, Councilmember Pat Powell argued that the concrete wall’s modern look would take away the historic authenticity of the property. Many properties in Coupeville have invested significantly to keep their buildings historic, she said, and the town has the duty to maintain this historical accuracy.

On the other hand, Hughes said, the town should support local businesses, advocating for the parking spots to be kept.

The council discussed the possibility of enforcing timed parking. According to Powell, some cars are “sitting there for days.”

Gretchen Luxenberg, an advocate for Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, told the council that Haller House is a historically relevant resource and that downtown Coupeville is an important part of the Reserve, so it’s important to keep the property’s historic integrity.

Another community member said losing parking spots is “unacceptable” unless there is a plan to get long-term parkers off the street.

Tuesday, Councilmembers Jenny Bright, Jackie Henderson and Rick Walti opposed the idea of losing the parking spots, while Councilmember Michael Moore said he is “okay” with it. Powell was reportedly on vacation and was not present.

Walti and Hughes said the retaining wall could be easily concealed with plants.

During a crowded community meeting on May 7, many speakers stressed the importance of keeping the boardwalk’s historic wooden boards.

Materials discussed Tuesday included a regular concrete pavement, pressure treated boards (which are currently in use and represent a safety concern), and boards made of cedar, recycled plastic or “Accoya,” a modified wood that, according to Grogan, is one of the least slippery in the market. Grogan and Hughes had also recommended the use of concrete boards that look like real wood and have a life expectancy of 50 years.

Tuesday, Henderson and Moore said they want real wood to keep the historic character of the boardwalk. On May 14, Powell said that it is Coupeville’s last boardwalk and, therefore, its boards should be replaced with real wood.

Walti said he doesn’t have a preference when it comes to the paving. Rather, he is interested in ensuring the underlying structure is safe.

Bright said she is in favor of using real wood boards as long as they are treated to be anti-slip and said she was in favor of the Accoya boards. Her husband, she said at a meeting on May 14, was one of the unfortunate people who slipped on the boardwalk.

According to Hughes, visitors and business owners have often complained about the need for increased accessibility for disabled folks. As a result, the project will also include a raised crosswalk connecting the two sides of Front Street and located approximately halfway through the boardwalk, as Grogan presented to the council on Tuesday. This will take one parking spot, he said.

The town will install a flower bed at the end of the boardwalk, close to Aqua Gifts. According to Grogan, it’s meant to prevent people from stepping from the boardwalk to the curb, which is over a foot higher than the walkway and has caused people to fall.

Hughes said the flowers might be lavender, because they are “deer-proof.”

Grogan hopes to complete 90% of the design by this weekend. After that, the town will notify the tribes and submit the project to the state, which will determine if it complies with the State Environmental Policy Act. After that, the project will go out for bid, Grogan said in an interview.