Comment on the January 18th Weekly article

(Due to the very short comment limit of the Weekly website, I am posting this here and linking to it from the original article: Clash about tides and land use)

“Living on an island doesn’t always mean you have access to a beach.”

This statement very misleading, as it implies that Lopezians don’t have ANY access to the beach. Lopez Island probably has the most public beach access of any island in the County: we are already blessed with over a dozen developed shoreline access parks and preserves. On the west side of Lopez, Shark Reef is a scarce mile south of the Clure property, and about a mile and a half north lies Otis Perkins Park and the Fisherman Bay Spit Preserves. Then we have Odlin Park and Spencer Spit, Watmough and Agate… the claim that “kids don’t have anywhere to go to the beach” is just plain false!

The Land Bank contends that signs will keep the beach walkers from trespassing on private land, but it’s clearly impossible to mark the boundary line between the public tidelands and private beach: high tides would soon sweep away any boundary markers that were placed on the beach.

The Land Bank also claims that by not having signs to the Preserve that it will not be much used. However, it’s naive to assume that word won’t quickly get out about this beach. Shark Reef County Park is the most heavily used public shoreline access on Lopez Island, and the Clure properties are a mile away, right off of Shark Reef Road. Every visitor who rides or drives to Shark Reef County Park will go right by this property.

Mr. Bormann continues to repeat the assertion that the process leading up to the Clure proposal has been “publicly discussed.” However, the Agendas for the Land Bank meeting did not name the Clure property until November. A few select members of the Trails group knew about this proposal (as they brought it to the Land Bank) but at no time did the Land Bank contact ANY of the adjacent landowners. Unless someone had prior knowledge of this proposal, it is highly unlikely they would know to look at the minutes of past meetings to find some reference to the “Clure shoreline,” if one even knew what that was. The Land Bank may have satisfied the absolutely minimum legal requirement for “public” notice, but at no time did they engage in a good-faith effort to notify and include the neighbors who will be most affected by this proposal.

There are 37 parcels of land that abut the public tidelands of this area. On the Save Lopez Shoreline website we have the names of 58 residents–neighbors, scientists, and others–who are opposed to this acquisition. This article says Trail Network claims to have “400 names” but at the meeting a member of the group said 300. No one outside of the trails group has seen this list of supporters, so we have no idea how many there really are.

Lopez is a very generous community, but we are all starting to see the strain on our fragile shoreline environments due to the many thousands of visitors that come to the island in the high summer season. Watmough Bay and Iceberg are both very heavily used areas, with 18,000 visitors to Watmough & 14,000 to Iceberg last year alone (and we know the bulk of those visits are in July & August). The Land Bank can claim that they “think” the number of visitors will be low, but there is no evidence to support that claim, and much evidence to suggest that many thousands of visitors will come to this beach once word gets out.

This article also fails to mention that the beach is a shoreline Critical Area, with extensive eelgrass and kelp tidelands, as well as breeding and nesting habitat for  birds and otters. Shark Reef Rocks are a National Wildlife Refuge and a critical haulout area for harbor seals, who also use the nearby beach for “parking” young pups. This proposal would allow people to approach well within the 200 yard no-go zone that is mandated for the National Wildlife Refuge rocks. It is quite possible that this acquisition will be in violation of the Shoreline Master Program guidelines for critical areas–however, the Land Bank has not done any research as to the possible conflicts between environmental protection and public access that this proposal will engender.

In short, this proposal opens an ecologically sensitive beach to the impacts of a massive increase in use by people and their dogs. The Land Bank and Trails Group have been marketing this as access to a “nearly pristine” beach, yet common sense tells us that thousands of additional human visits will quickly jeopardize the very qualities that make this beach what it is. Neighbors, scientists, and concerned citizens urge the Land Bank to withdraw this proposal.

–Adrienne Adams, Lopez Island

One thought on “Comment on the January 18th Weekly article

  1. Holly Page Bryant

    Thank You Adrienne Adams for pointing out some of the very salient points that have been glossed over by the Trails Group and the Land Bank.
    I belong to one of the families who have literally for decades have held this property in the highest Stewardship. Every time we spend time on our beach we have packed out bags of human debris from fishing line and lures to bright pieces of other plastic that is detrimental to both the animals and birds that call this beach home. The other reason that we do this is that this debris is just a gross reminder of how much trash is thrown in our ocean. We are far from the only family that does this. I am not pointing this out for accolades, I am pointing out exactly why this stretch of beach has earned the “Wild and Pristine” labels that the Land Bank is using as an enticement to open this beach to the general public. We who own property that includes this beach have acted as Stewards for this land. We are extremely careful not to disturb the birds and animals and plants that call this beach home like we do.
    We are not wealthy, my parents saved for years to buy this property, build a small house and retire here. Our extended family has owned land up here in the Islands I believe since the early 1920’s. We are not newcomers to the San Juans, Even if we were, we do not deserve the name calling that has been heaped upon us for trying to defend our private property rights. The Land Bank has advertised this acquisition as allowing “you and your family to stroll along two miles of Wild and Pristine beach, to view wonderful sunsets”, it has neglected to point out that in order to walk on the sand or play in the driftwood you are trespassing on private property. Most of the public land is tide flats: rocky, slippery,seaweed covered and frequently shelving off at a steep angle into the Channel. Nearly all of this public land is underwater when the Land Bank says you can view the nice sunset. unless you keep everyone…every single person on the small beach front that goes with the Clure lands or that the walkers only use the beach at the times that the tide allows the public land to be above water,
    This piece of beach has not even been widely advertised off Island and there is already is a groundswell of people who do not care that they would be Trespassing…all they care about is using our beach,a beach that they did not even know existed a few months ago. Since when is it okay to post private land as public property? So, how does the Land Bank propose to keep people from trespassing, or throwing trash, or having one or more of their unleashed dog tear apart a seal pup (this has already happened!) or the real big question…How is the Land Bank going to make CERTAIN that these masses of people do not set fire to our land? The banks leading down to all of the beach parts of our private property are so steep that neither our Fire Dept., nor we the landowners, can fight a fire that takes hold.
    There are so many legal problems with this land! (It is not like there is any shortage of beaches that are truly public and available to both residents and visitors of Lopez without trespassing on private property. I beg you! Please leave this one stretch of land the way it is now. Leave at least one beach on Lopez Wild and Pristine,

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