By Steve Bristow
The recent spate of activist letters, here and elsewhere, seem determined to portray our community in the most jaundiced of terms to anyone and any publication that will listen.
As one circumspect Central Whidbey elected official wrote to the activists, “The constant bad press, rallies and campaigning against the military will give Coupeville a bad name. This will do as much to hurt our businesses and economy as the jet noise.”
True words. Except the narrative that Whidbey jets have harmed our economy, tourism, environment, health, real-estate, and other topics is activist narrative. Nearly all are thriving across the board, using objective measures, including Coupeville’s occupancy, tourism, property and business valuations.
Several authors indicate they speak for our community and environment. They speak only for themselves.
Multiple authors wish Growlers to forego rural Coupeville in favor of urban Tacoma. Naval aviators should transit over a major metropolitan area, through multiple classes of FAA airspace, near several busy airports including SeaTac, and then use Joint Base Lewis-McChord for practice which will have no similarity to aircraft carrier operations.
Note, the Navy has never relinquished its Whidbey zoning areas, as the USAF did at McChord. Tactical jets will not ever return to Tacoma. The Coupeville field is the best of its kind in the world.
Jet noise and health is rehashed. This was rejected by the courts quite recently. While also noting newcomers and lower population densities near the practice field, “it is difficult to detect a difference between those who dislike [Navy] action, and those who suffer from real anxiety or stress.” Published in the Whidbey News-Times on Aug. 11, 2015.
Also, Island and San Juan counties are among the healthiest in all of Washington state, after 60 years of jets, including 10 years of Growlers.
One more author portrays a regional up-swell and alliance versus the Navy. People should judge for themselves how much of this is internet sleight-of-hand, shell websites, the same demographic and groups that are peripheral even by local activist standards.
Whidbey jets and aircrew expertise save many lives of young servicemen and women around the world.
Regionally, Whidbey Search and Rescue likely impacts far more people than much of the internet “alliance” members combined.
Navy personnel and their young families are among our most committed and vibrant community members. In addition to ensuring a superlative national defense, they perform countless hours of community service and involvement.
Interestingly, it is the Navy, and not the supposed allied groups, that has quietly emerged as one of the most prolific and meaningful conservancy groups in the Northwest.
The Navy, and its many partners, have secured numerous easements, conserved and restored critical habitats, plus protected thousands of acres and many miles of shorelines.
This is both at Whidbey and elsewhere in Washington.
Contrary to the unrelenting activist negativity, we should appraise the many positive aspects of our community, support our Navy, commend their families and appreciate the Navy’s numerous regional conservation programs.
Since 1902, the Navy League of the United States is a nonpartisan, worldwide organization, dedicated to informing the American people about the importance of Sea Services to our national defense and economic prosperity.
• Steve Bristow is past president and spokesman for the Oak Harbor Navy League.