In our opinion: Plans to rebuild Windjammer windmill are overdue

Four years ago, Oak Harbor officials’ decision to raze the windmill in Windjammer Park caused an uproar among current and former residents who have nostalgic memories of the iconic structure.

The windmill was once central to summertime memories in Oak Harbor. Teenagers working for the park and rec district sold concessions out of the building, which was next to the popular swimming lagoon. Toddlers waded in the nearby splash pool and families had picnics in the shadow of the windmill.

It had long been a symbol of the city, appearing in countless photographs and paintings. Even a new city mural includes the windmill.

Council members who voted to remove the windmill assured residents that it would be replaced. Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns said he would insist on it. But nothing has happened.

Until now. At a workshop next Wednesday, Severns will ask the council to begin preliminary discussions about building a new windmill. In the agenda for the meeting, he notes that there’s a community fundraising effort to reconstruct the building.

It’s a welcome, overdue step forward. Hopefully, the mayor can find a way to rebuild the windmill somewhere in the waterfront park. Like the old windmill, it should incorporate a concession stand. Paddleboard, kayak, scooter or even kite or squirt-gun rentals would also be a great addition.

The windmill was built in the late 1970s, partly with untreated wood. In 2017, the city staff reported to the council that rot had crept into the blades of the windmill, posing a hazard to people in the park.

The staff offered several options for solving the problem, including making repairs. But since the city already planned to move the structure to a different, unspecified site, the council decided to tear it down and rebuild it later.

Rick Almberg, a former councilman with a career in construction, tried to save the windmill. He and a city engineer looked at the structure and concluded that it could be repaired without great expense. He made a motion to indefinitely delay the destruction, but he didn’t even get a second.

Many in the community were upset with the council. It was especially galling when the council soon afterward decided to spend $1.7 million on a kitchen and pavilion in the park, but no windmill.

The controversy this year over installing the giant sculpture titled “Angel de la Creatividad” in the park reignited the anger over the windmill. Councilmember Jeffrey Mack, the sole vote against the sculpture, said the money to install the sculpture would be better spent on a windmill.

It’s time to move forward, but not in anger. Especially with three new city council members coming aboard in the new year, the time is right to set aside bad feelings and direct passions at coming up with constructive ideas and raising funds for an ideal replacement.

The old windmill would have wanted it that way.