It is a picturesque, century-old town, a town without a single stoplight. It's a place where there is still an operating pay phone downtown that gives free local calls.

On the banks of this small Puget Sound city, however, heroin has come ashore.

Langley is a tranquil tourist town of about 1,100 people on the south end of Whidbey Island. In a recent sweep of downtown's Seawall Park, officers found more than 40 needles strewn throughout the neatly arranged benches, sidewalks and trash cans.

"The big concern is that we're going to have a kid pick up a needle or get poked with a needle," said Langley Police Chief David Marks.

Up a steep hillside at the park, users have started camping out beneath the foundations downtown's historic buildings, shooting drugs and making themselves right at home.

"They had extension cords run. They had mattresses up there. They had their cell phones plugged in," Marks said.

Langley, Wash.
Langley, Wash.

For as long as it has been in existence, Seawall Park has been open 24/7. Chief Marks now wants to close it overnight. It's a proposal opposed by some at City Hall who say it's an overreaction to an isolated problem. Others argue the closure would just push the problem elsewhere.

Marks concedes that point.

"A lot of these people don't want help,” he said. “They're having the time of their lives, at least they think they are. Until they hit rock bottom and seek some help, we're stuck with this."

The bigger problem is the lack of drug treatment facilities on Whidbey Island. Nearly everyone seeking to get clean has to travel to the mainland.

Regardless, Chief Marks says Langley must kick its heroin issue now before it becomes a full-blown problem.

The Langley City Council has given tentative approval to the park closure. Public comment will be taken at the council meeting on October 17.