By Timothy D. Scriven

A forty-three acre property site, which was originally named the South Whidbey Community Center, was acquired in 1981 and was followed by approximately eight years of work largely by professional volunteers supported by donations. During this time, the South Whidbey Community received enormous gifts of time and donated equipment from a large group of caring people who gave extensively on behalf of present and future generations. The history has largely been forgotten or is not known, as it has not been available in an accessible way. This story then is intended to provide knowledge of who did what, when and the methods that were employed.

During the whole time that clearing the land and specific building projects were being accomplished for the development of the park, the community was kept informed. A variety of public relations methods were used including articles in the South Whidbey Record and informative public speaking engagements. Photographs were shown of work being done on a large oak framed display built by Dick Scriven specifically for this purpose. This free standing six sided display was located in public areas for members of the community to enjoy.

Chain saw sculptor, Pat McVay, donated a wood carving of a construction worker shown stretching a dollar as he pulled on it between his hands. Pat’s sculpture which he named, Hec for Rec., was intended to represent our message to the community of utilizing their money very efficiently, “stretching every dollar.”  Thanks to Pat’s gift, this concept was demonstrated by the sculpture as it accompanied the photograph display.

The history of the project has remained unheralded, and this is my attempt to tell the story accurately and to make it available on the web and in the book listed in the main menu. My source of information is my personal collection of articles, documents, pictures and other material that was accumulated as the development of the park progressed. It was always my desire to record the achievements of each person who contributed to the park’s success.

I began promoting the idea for a community center complex in 1978 and I established an ad hoc committee in 1980. The option agreement to purchase the original 43 acre site was signed by the owner, Bud Waterman, and by me on February 27, 1981. I was present at most every work party and fund raising event from beginning to end, 1981 through 1989. I took pictures and retained information as my regard for those that did the work from fund raising to building the park itself was something that was important to remember in detail and therefore I made the best attempt that I could on behalf of each individual contributor to record their involvement. It is my pleasure to share the collection of pictures and documents along with my recollection of all who contributed to the project. From the first picture that I took in 1981 to the last picture in 1989 it was always my intention to tell the story.

My first attempt to share my collection of the Community Park’s early history was through the South Whidbey Historical Society in collaboration with one of the Board Members, Craig Williams. Craig saw to it that the pictures and documents were put on the Historical Society’s web site. My initial meeting with Craig was on September 5, 2008.

The Technical Writing Department was contacted at Western Washington University initially by me with Craig’s approval. Craig agreed to coordinate the efforts of Dr. Mark Sherman and the students as they provided further input to what Craig had accomplished. Their work is on the South Whidbey Historical Society’s web site.

An earlier endeavor to write the history of the events regarding the story of the community park was provided by Edith Buck’s little book, The Birth of a Vision, but it has received little attention since publication in 1984. She wrote the story from my notes after I asked her a second time.

Edith Buck was a wise and wonderful woman as was her co-author Dorothy Gray and the publishers Linda Colley and Bettie Hall. They understood that the knowledge of giving based accomplishments will result in appreciation and for many people appreciation is the fuel for inspiration. Inspiration is the ignition source of energy that will encourage future kind endeavors in multiple areas as we have been the recipients of since our country was founded. This is one of the keys to providing for a decent society, and so it has been practiced in our society and so it must be into the future.

For the ladies mentioned above, their purpose in investing their time was to light a flame of inspiration based on a true account of the park’s story from its initial idea to the acquisition of the property. Their story is about those who did the work until 1984 when The Birth of a Vision was published.

There were moments of triumph and some of disappointment as we pursued our project, the latter being common in any arena of human endeavor. The politics of something that involves a lot of people will always create surprising issues to cope with, and should provide a small warning to anyone who steps into a leadership role that is focused on doing the right thing on behalf of others. All projects are to some extent political and different people can have different reactions to projects at all levels, from local to national. You cannot be all things to all people, and the human dynamics that are manifested by individual differences is what introduces some confusion between individuals and groups. We should not expect all to embrace every project for the same reasons or in the same way.

In spite of the differences, a large—but fluid—group worked long and hard on the Community Park and the result was a triumph for the community. Since my time with the project, it has gone on to develop further and is a source of pride in the community. A large number of people continue to give their time to a large variety of programs and activities. It is my hope that an account of their efforts and the accomplishments of the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District will be added to this story bringing the entire history up to the present.

The lessons that are provided in the story of acquiring the forty-three acre site by first using an option agreement to purchase it, then the events that lead to a cruise of the properties’ timber, followed by the revelation of the surprising value of the timber which created the situation that lead to the verbal agreement and for the Waterman’s to clear cut 70% of the trees; all came together in an incredible way that led to the purchase/donation of the forty-three acre site to the newly established nonprofit organization, South Whidbey Recreation. This on its own is a remarkable story!

The names of those who donated to the purchase must never be forgotten. Those who built the park must never be forgotten. Too much remains to be done and will be done if the community remembers and appreciates allowing the flames of inspiration to be nurtured in a synergistic way. Of course it was this very formula and consequent energy that was utilized to build the Community Park, and so it goes.

This story is also intended to provide an opportunity for the reader to learn about the way that money was leveraged through the volunteer contributions of professionals and others. Then, the involvement of the civic and service clubs working cooperatively together, and how it was all accomplished in concert with well-orchestrated use of publicity and public relations. Taken together it all produces a valuable account of something extraordinary that is beyond what any small community has previously achieved. Although, the principles and concepts themselves that were used were not invented, they were utilized fully to get the results that were accomplished for such a truly large scale endeavor.

It is my hope that this story will inspire other projects for the community to benefit from, so that we can accomplish further good by placing the focus on helping each child through programs that are educational, cultural and athletic. “A rising tide lifts all boats;” and nothing provides greater lift for a community then helping children to fulfill their potential and develop their self-esteem as the people of South Whidbey continue to demonstrate.

I will be writing in the third person after this initial introduction because the story of acquiring and building the community park will flow better in that style. My intent is to share what individuals accomplished while working together building the South Whidbey Community Park during the first 8 years. The following writing style is therefore chosen to allow the story to maintain the importance of each person’s contribution.