A month and a half after the destruction of the beloved whale bell in Langley’s seaside park, community members have worked together to install a new bell to take its place.
Tom and Anna Larson of South Whidbey donated the antique school bell to the city, which is similar in appearance to its predecessor in Whale Bell Park. The original bell was donated by the founders of the Orca Network in 2009 and was part of an Eagle Scout project. Metal artist Tim Leonard built the mount for it.
The bell is intended to be rung when whales are spotted swimming near the Village by the Sea. Gray whales stop by Langley between the months of March and June to feed on ghost shrimp.
In January, a man identified as Christopher Moritz was accused of shattering the original fixture after spying a tugboat and not being able to figure out how to ring the bell, according to police reports.
Randi Perry, Langley’s public works director, said Tom Larson had the recently donated bell for over 50 years, which he acquired from the Chimacum School District while on a trip to the Olympic Peninsula.
Perry’s husband, Jeremiah, welded the broken collar of the bell that had also been destroyed. The city’s public works staff put the new bell up Tuesday.
Like its predecessor, the bell can only be rung during gray whale season. During the off season, the clapper will be safely stowed at the Langley Whale Center. Fred Lundahl, a nearby business owner, said worries about the bell becoming an “attractive nuisance” have always existed.
“We’ll just wait to hear anyone complaining,” Lundahl said. “There were never any drunken teenagers ringing it in Langley, frankly, but that was always a concern.”
Howard Garrett of the Orca Network said he is thrilled to see the bell installed just in time for the arrival of gray whales to Whidbey shores. The organization’s “Welcome the Whales” festival takes place April 15 and 16.
Susan Berta, also of Orca Network, said that while it was sad and discouraging to see what happened to the original bell – which came from her mother’s antique shop – it didn’t take long for the community to step up with more than one donation. A second bell that was offered was owned by Jeff Williams and his late spouse, Chris.
The second whale bell will someday be installed along Cascade Avenue overlooking the marina, between the telescopes and interpretive signs, Berta said. Langley Creates, the city’s creative district, has proposed building a promenade along the length of the street with artwork, benches and nature-oriented displays.
“We are so appreciative of this community who cares for the whales, and loves being able to share their presence by ringing the whale bell,” Berta said, “and are thankful to all the community members involved to keep the whale bell ringing.”