Letter from Judy Meyer to SJC Council

To: San Juan County Council

I won’t be able to attend your January meeting because I am off island caring for my granddaughter.  If I were on Lopez, I would be at your January 10 meeting requesting that you do not approve the Land Bank’s purchase of the Clure property.  The Land Bank is still in the feasibility period, and this purchase is not feasible for many reasons:

I spent my entire career as an ecologist studying the impacts humans have had on ecosystems, so my primary concern is with the impact of the numbers of people likely to visit the property.  The beach currently has minimal human traffic and is a wonderful haven for wildlife.   With an access off Shark Reef Road, this will become a popular stopping point for tourists on their way to Shark Reef Park.   Increasing human traffic on the beach will be detrimental to the plants and animals.  Numerous scientific studies in the peer-reviewed literature have demonstrated the negative impacts of human trampling on intertidal organisms around the world and as close to home as San Juan County Park (citations can be found at www.savelopezshoreline.org/documents).  I am attaching a photo of the intertidal area on this beach.  What appear to the human eye as little black dots on the rocks are snails that look like dinner to shore birds; human feet can easily crush those snails.

intertidal-copyThis is just one example of the damage that is likely with increasing visitor numbers on this beach.  The Land Bank’s mission is “To preserve in perpetuity areas that have environmental,  . . .,  or low-intensity recreational value”, but in this case those two aspects of its mission are in conflict.  I do not think the Land Bank’s mission is to purchase property for “low-intensity recreational use” where that use will degrade the area’s environmental value; it is antithetical to the concept of preservation in perpetuity.

The county’s Shoreline Master Plan acknowledges that public access is not required under the conditions that exist on this property.  Those conditions include the existence of health or safety hazards (in this case unstable cliffs and increased fire danger) or if “environmental harm will result from public access that cannot be mitigated”.  The state’s shoreline planning document states that public access “should not result in a net loss of shoreline ecological functions.”  It further states,  “Where public access conflicts with environmental protection of wetlands and critical wildlife habitats, protection of the resource has priority.”  Based on these county and state planning documents alone, public access should not be allowed on this beach.

If visitors use this purchase for access to two miles of beach as has been advertised by purchase proponents, visitors will be walking beyond the boundaries of the Clure property and in the intertidal unless they trespass on private property.   In many respects, this acquisition is an invitation to trespass as the easiest walking and resting spots on driftwood logs are on private property.  I often hear the proponents of the Land Bank’s purchase state that they think all beaches should be public as they are in Oregon and other states.  That is a reasonable point of view, but the way to achieve that is to change the law in Washington, not to enable trespassing on what is now private land on which San Juan County collects taxes.  I do not think the role of county commissioners is to enable trespassing, and that is what this purchase will do.

Although the purchase is only weeks away, the Land Bank has not told the neighbors or the public their plans for access to the Clure property; the most likely access is off Meadow Lane or Eagle’s Roost.  These are private roads.  They were not intended or designed to be public roads.   They have been privately maintained for decades.  Their purpose is to provide access to the residential neighborhoods they serve.  Making them public and increasing traffic on those roads is outside the initial purpose for which the road easements were granted and hence legally questionable.

This purchase will result in increased fire danger in a place where spotting fires will be difficult and where there is no clear access for firefighters.  Trespassers have already caused damaging fires on this beach, and increasing the number of visitors only increases the likelihood of fire.  This purchase will have a negative impact on the lives of those living along Shark Reef Road, Meadow Lane, Ivy Lane, Hemlock Lane, Eagle’s Roost, Channel Road and Perkins Lane as well as those of us who value the few nearly pristine places left on Lopez.   Please do not approve of the Land Bank’s purchase of the Clure property.


Judy Meyer
498 Shoreland Dr.