Keep waterfront land in Mukilteo’s hands l Guest View

By Emery Cole, Former Mayor of Mukilteo | Oct 24, 2018

In the early 1990s the federal government announced it would abandon the former national defense fuel tank farm property that occupied 20 acres of waterfront land in Old Town Mukilteo.

When the government decides to surplus land, there are three entities that are granted primary right of acquisition under federal statute (Port Districts, Homeless Agencies, and Native American Tribes). The city of Mukilteo decided the Port of Everett would be the right partner and did not pursue engaging the other two alternatives.

After several years of environmental cleanup of the tank farm site, the Port of Everett, as lead agency, delivered over a majority of the land to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for a new ferry terminal.

In the process, the Tulalip Tribes were given two acres of the land. Today, it appears the major beneficiary of Mukilteo’s waterfront redevelopment is Whidbey Island residents and commuters. Mukilteo ends up with a narrow “ribbon” of land for a waterfront promenade for limited public enjoyment and some access to the beach with little public parking available.

I just found out that there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under consideration between the South Whidbey Island Port District (SWPD), Port of Everett, and Tulalip Tribes to allow the SWPD to lease the two acres of Tribal land to create a commuter parking lot.

I recently brought this to the attention of the Mukilteo City Council but have had no contact in return. I think it would be a travesty to lose any more waterfront land that would not directly benefit the citizens of Mukilteo and the surrounding community.

The two acres of Tribal land should be used for additional public access and recreation for the benefit of the local community and the city of Mukilteo should aggressively try to stop any effort between SWPD, Port of Everett and Tulalip Tribes to create more commuter parking on the waterfront.

The current waterfront plan depicts a significant section of land for a WSDOT employee vehicle parking lot with some transportation amenities (buses, van pools) east of the ferry holding lanes configuration. Why couldn’t the existing holding area be used for WSDOT employee vehicles instead of prime waterfront land? There is also speculation that traffic coming from the limited Sounder parking lot will possibly end up using the Baker Street BNSF railroad crossing and Mukilteo Lane, which is a narrow sub-standard street used by many local walkers, joggers and cyclists.

I would encourage the current city administration to start a dialogue with the Tulalip Tribes to attempt to get some additional public parking and recreational opportunities on the land awarded them. A public park with waterfront access for recreational watercraft (paddle boards, kayaks, wind surfers, etc), fishermen, scuba divers and picnickers would be a reasonable accommodation for Mukilteo and surrounding communities for greater waterfront access. Maybe the city and the Port of Everett together could explore getting grants to purchase or lease the land from the Tribes.

If the Tribes aren’t interested in leasing or selling the land to Mukilteo, then maybe they would see logic in partnering to make the land benefit Mukilteo since I believe Mukilteo has generally been held in high regard historically by Native American Puget Sound Tribes.

Perhaps more public parking could be created and the perimeter areas could contain Native American interpretive kiosks and totems to acknowledge the historical significance of the area.  And perhaps the Port of Everett could be called upon to build two “T” piers in the area as opposed to the single pier depicted in the current plan.

I would encourage the Mukilteo administration and City Council to try and include some money in the 2019 budget to hire a lobbyist/consultant to assist in developing and implementing a plan before all is lost.

 

 

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