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