Letter from Kate Scott to Port of Lopez

Port Commissioners:
Steve Adams
Dan Post
Kenn Aufderhar

Dear Commissioners,

I am writing to ask you to please deny public access to the Clure property across Port land.

An email received from the Trails folk has stated that  “a few neighbors have mounted a strong opposition to the Preserve, with some valid concerns and several alternative facts and plenty of $.”

I would like to point out that we are more than “a few neighbors” who are opposing this  purchase.  There are at least 38 of us whose property abuts the beach in question – and only one of them approves of opening this pristine beach to the public.  The Trails folks’ email shows a lovely photograph of the long unspoiled beach  and says it “affords miles of beach available for the public to walk on.”   In truth, the photo shows almost all private  property.  The  rocky tide flats in the bottom part of the picture are where the public could legally walk, and even then only when the tide is out.   And what exactly is “plenty of $” insinuating?  That we are all rich landowners and we just don’t want to share?  What exactly was “plenty of $”  spent on? Looks to me like alternative facts  they refer to did not come from our side.

I  purchased my land (with its two falling down shacks) on  Channel Road in 1989, and it was still relatively inexpensive. I am not even remotely wealthy.  Most of the property owners I know personally along this beach have owned their properties since the 70s and before. All of us that live along this two mile stretch of beach care immensely that this beach stay the wild and unspoiled beach that it is; not because of some NIMBY attitude as implied,  but because we understand that it’s the very inaccessibility that keeps it that way and is what has kept us good stewards of it.

This beach is home to all manner of wild animals who call it home. Deer swim across the channel.  Mamma seals  bring their babies ashore to wait patiently while they fish, sometimes there at the foot of Meadow Lane, and also points much further north. Otters roam freely  up and down the beach as well as the banks.  Many, many different bird species nest and make their living here, including  families of eagles that have nested here since the  50s. Again, it’s the very inaccessibility that keeps this beach wild and unspoiled.

The Trails group seem to have dialed back their “last wild and unspoiled beach on Lopez” description in this latest email.  Now they just say it’s a nice place for the public to walk; and  “this nice place would be visited by a few more of us (the public which does include outsiders).”   That sounds like a vast understatement to me, given the number of people that visit nearby Shark Reef County Park every summer.   I  can only assume they have realized that hordes of people on the beach in the summer would mean it wouldn’t stay very wild and pristine for very long, and so are now describing it as “nice.”    How can it possibly “preserve the wildness” of this beach by opening it up to  lots and lots of people and their no doubt numerous dogs?  It is a contradiction in terms to say that.   Plus what interpretation  of “wild”  includes  beach signs cluttering up the landscape?

While they tout that it’s “a great benefit to our community as a space for walking and access to sit along the shoreline,” we already have numerous public beaches on the west side on which to do those things.  One can even play in the surf and enjoy sunsets from these other beaches.

They also say people walking the beach would have “…no intent to neither trespass on private lands nor harm neighbors.”  When in fact, intent is  completely separate from actuality.  Even our Lopez County Commissioner’s wife, whose land abuts a public access beach in the village, testified that people paid no attention to the posted “private property” signs and walked right by them all the time.

Lastly, the email states that “Fire and EMS access here is easier than at several other public lands and parks on Lopez.”  This can only be referring to access  through Meadow Lane, the only spot along the whole two mile stretch of beach where fire and EMS could even get near a beach.  There is absolutely no access of any sort for that type of equipment on any of the rest of the properties. All but the Clure properties are high bank, with no access anywhere near the banks.  The Lopez Fire Chief has advised that the chance of a major fire greatly increases with public access. He also said  Lopez fire equipment and EMS vans can’t navigate the Clure beach access; so the best firefighters can do is walk in with 5-10 gallon water back-packs. He further said “early detection by homeowners is key” because if a fire catches hold on the dry grasses of the bluff, there is little they can do to contain it.

For these many reasons,  I ask you respectfully to please not grant access to the Clure property over Port land.

Thank you very much,

Kat Scott
Lopez Island

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Response to Journal article from Noel McKeehan

This letter is in response to the article “Protecting natural places” in the Journal of the San Juans.

——

Comment: From a recent San Juan Journal article:

“This proposal leads to the question: how do we balance tourism, land rights and conservation?”

My reaction is:

Maybe the “question” should precede the “proposal” not the reverse; a debate of the question, if the outcome were that there is some problem with the current “balance” that revelation might drive a “proposal”. And perhaps it would not be the unsolicited proposal currently on the table.

Or:

“Although private landowners can operate with conservation values, we do not believe that private landowners are necessarily the best stewards of fragile places.”

I am forced to reply:

That’s an assertion that bears some sort of proof.

“We believe in the Land Bank’s mission, and feel it is an ideal protector of natural spaces. Landowners are not subject to the same scrutiny and are also vulnerable to make mistakes.”

There you go again…

You can assert and believe and feel what you want, but assertions are not proof and beliefs are not facts and feelings are just that.

Still more:

“We wonder if a compromise …”

That is a call to action with no case made; only an idiot would want to compromise his property rights and associated property values to a “gee it would really be nice if pigs could fly” proposal.
Or, I can’t help hearing “so, Mr Chamberlain…”

And finally:

“We hope the property owners and the Land Bank can reach an agreement that is satisfactory to all . If the general public does not have access to places of wonder and beauty, they will have less motivation to save these places…”

Who asked them to “save these places? If one reads some of the letters from property owners documenting the beach unfriendly habits and practices of the trespassers, one shudders at the thought of what ‘saving these places’ might entail. ”

—Noel McKeehan

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

Letter from Larry Bailey re access to Clure Property

LAWRENCE B BAILEY
308 HEMLOCK LANE
LOPEZ ISLAND,WA 98261
(360) 468-3217
January 15, 2017

To: San Juan County Council
San Juan County Land Bank
Port of Lopez

Re: Claim of Public Access to the Clure Property

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are writing with regard to the Clure’s search for an easement granting public access to their property. We submit that the Clures have only limited, personal access via Meadow Lane to their property for ingress, egress and utilities and that they have no other legal access to their property. We further submit that the easement for Meadow Lane was granted solely to the purchasers of property from Rowland and Marion Davies, their successors and assigns, per that certain “Easement Exchange Agreement and Construction Agreement” signed by the Clures and others recorded February 16,1972 under SJC Recording No.77927; and that the Clures have no legal right to increase usage by the public of the Meadow Lane easement.

1. The Clures have no legal right of access over Port Property.

In a letter to the Port of Lopez dated January 10, 2017, the attorney for the Clures, Michael K. Murray, claims the Clures have an existing easement over Port property. We made a public documents request to the Port for this letter and also reviewed all Port documents pertinent to this claim.

From the Port documents we have seen and from the personal knowledge of our neighbors and myself of the parties and properties since 1975, we believe Attorney Murray’s letter is incorrect both factually and legally.

He enclosed Attorney Souders’ letter of March 29 2005 to the Clures responding to an inquiry by Mrs Clure. Attorney Souders was then the attorney for the Port. There was no mention made in Souders’ letter of any claim of an easement by the Clures over the Port property which the Clures and others had sold to the Port in 1978 by a simple statutory warranty deed. Souders’ letter, which was not copied to the Port or in the records of the Port, responds only to the Clure’s possible right to grant additional easements over their own property, not the Port’s. Souders’ letter does not even address the easement that the Clures are now claiming and in our opinion is irrelevant.

Murray claims the Clures intended to reserve an easement over the property when they sold to the Port and the fact they didn’t was a mistake. He in effect claims the Clure deed to the Port should be rewritten to grant an easement back to the Clures.

That claim is baseless.

Since there was obviously no fraud involved, the only legal basis for claiming that the deed should be rewritten is if there was a “mutual mistake,” or “clerical error” by both the Clures and the Port and that both sides had agreed to the easement. You can safely bet that if the Clures had any factual basis for proving that claim they would have provided such evidence.They didn’t…

There is no evidence of any “mutual mistake” or “clerical error” and no evidence in the Port’s records that an easement to the Clures was ever discussed or considered. In short, their easement claim based on their alleged mistake has no merit.

Attorney Murray then goes on to claim the Clures had “continuous, uninterrupted, use of an existing gravel roadbed…since 1978” and in effect claims a “prescriptive easement” by adverse possession.

Land held by Washington’s governmental entities are generally immune from adverse possession actions. In other words, rights to public lands generally can’t be acquired by adverse possession as against the state or entities like the Port.

“RCW 7.28.090 Adverse possession —Public lands…
RCW 7.28.070 and 7.28.080 shall not extend to lands or tenements owned by the United States or this state… nor to lands held for any public purpose.”

If Attorney Murray can somehow claim that statute doesn’t apply here, the Clures would still have to factually prove their adverse possession claim. To our knowledge they have never used the lane off Eagles Roost, which was just built by the Port in 2001, to visit their property. The Clures have never lived on Lopez or on their property and their visits have been very infrequent over the last 40+ years.They have always driven down Meadow Lane and then over the beach access to their property. To establish a “prescriptive easement” in our state. the Clures would have to factually prove that their use was “open, adverse, notorious, continuous, hostile and uninterrupted over the prescriptive period of ten years.” If they ever used the lane/roadbed,it was not open, notorious, continuous, hostile or uninterrupted and was certainly not adverse. The Washington State Supreme Court has found that the use of someone’s property will be presumed to be with the owner’s permission and therefore not “adverse,” stating: “an initial presumption of permissive use applies to enclosed or developed land cases in which there is a reasonable inference of neighborly sufferance or acquiescence… Showing a reasonable inference of neighborly sufferance or acquiescence is a fairly low bar.” Gamboa v. Clark ,183 Wn.2nd 38, 348 P.3d 1214 (2015). In short, neither the facts or law support the claim of a prescriptive easement.

Finally, Attorney Murray claims that, “The easement…does not add or create any rights that the Clure LLC’s do not already have; it is intended to clear title and document these existing easement rights..” As is readily apparent from the foregoing, his statement and claim have no basis in fact or in law.

( As a side note,the Clures and other Meadow Lane owners approached the Port in 1999 requesting the Port to help alleviate excessive water runoff. The Port agreed to do this if the Clures would grant the Port a drainage easement, which the Port would fund, build and maintain. The Clures and the Port entered into an Easement Agreement recorded October 25,2000, SJC Recording No. 2000 1025015 which conditioned the Port’s use as follows: “The easement is not a right of way for access to the shore of the San Juan Channel for any recreational purpose or any other purpose other than constructing, using and maintaining the easement described herein.” It stands to reason that if the Clures thought they had a claim of an easement back over the Port property they would have asserted it at this time. There is no evidence in the Port records that they made any such claim.)

In summary, there are no facts, circumstances, documents, or evidence of any kind that establishes any easement to the Clures over Port Property.

2. The Port is limited by FAA Regulations from granting road and parking easements.

In addition to all the foregoing,the Port is required to comply with all FAA regulations,policies and guidelines as to land uses within a Runway Protection Zone (RPZ). The proposed Clure easement and its intended expanded uses would fall within these policies. The Clure property as well of that of other neighbors is within the Port’s RPZ and they have already sold an Avigation and Hazard Easement to the Port recorded July 13,1978, SJC Recording No.102458 which prohibits any construction and tall trees in the RPZ and permits the Port to remove any construction and tall trees. The most recent guidance we found in the Port’s records from the FAA on land uses within an RPZ is dated September 27, 2012. This guidance requires the Port to consult and coordinate with the FAA when there is any change in land use within the RPZ, such as “recreational land use…places of public assembly…public roads…vehicular parking facilities…” Prior to seeking FAA approval, the Port is first required to work with FAA staff to: “Avoid introducing the land use…minimize the impact of the land use…and mitigate risk to people and property on the ground.” The FAA guidance goes on to state that: “Land uses prohibited from the RPZ are…places of public assembly…”

3. Public Access over Meadow Lane or Eagles Roost is not an option.

Both Meadow Lane and Eagles Roost are private roads established by easements granted with the sale and purchase of adjoining land. They are maintained by the respective homeowner groups and are open only to the owners and their invitees. They are not public roads in any sense and are not built to county road standards. The road easement that is now called Meadow Lane was established by the above described 1972 Easement Exchange Agreement and Construction Agreement. The Clures and all other Meadow Lane owners at that time signed the agreement which provides in part: “4. It is further agreed that the new relocated roadway and easement shall run with land of the parties hereto in said Government Lot 2 and be appurtenant thereto,and that neither it nor any portion thereof shall be assigned or granted to any other persons except those as may be or become persons who have an ownership interest in said land and said Government Lot 2.”

This easement was also included in the deed each purchaser received from the Davies.The easement is “non-exclusive” which means the person whose land is used for the easement retains the privilege of sharing the easement benefits with the persons holding the easement rights.

We believe it is clear, based on this agreement, the property deeds, and the facts and circumstances in 1972, that this ingress and egress easement, now called Meadow Lane, was intended to serve and benefit only the 10 parcels into which the Davies farm was divided and the “persons” who purchased them. The homeowners of Meadow Lane are united in their opposition to any public entity purchasing the Clure property and seeking to access it by Meadow Lane. In short, we will legally challenge any significant increase in the traffic, vehicles or pedestrians, on our private easement.

In the same vein, a majority of the homeowners on Eagles Roost oppose any public entity purchasing the Clure property and seeking to access it by Eagles Roost and will challenge any significant increase in the traffic, vehicles or pedestrians, on their private easement.

We believe the law of easements in our state fully supports our position. In considering the scope of an easement, our Washington courts have held in numerous cases that it is the duty of the court to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the parties as determined by the language of the grant and consider the situations and circumstances of the parties at the time of the grant. Our courts have consistently held that use of an easement cannot be substantially enlarged or materially changed so that an unreasonable, increased burden on the servient estate results. Green v.Lupo, 32 Wash App.318,647 P.2d 51 (1982); Zobrist v. Culp, 95 Wash.2d 556,627 P,2d 1381(1981); Brown v. Voss, 105 Wn.2d 366,715 P.2d514 (1986).

Consequently, the use of Meadow Lane and Eagles Roost is limited to the use that is reasonably necessary for the intended purpose of the easement and no easement owner may materially increase the burden or impose new burdens on the underlying easement landowners.

We submit that on the basis of the facts, circumstances, and Washington law, the Clures have only limited, personal access via Meadow Lane to their property and that they have no other legal access to their property via the Port property or Eagles Roost Lane.

Respectfully Submitted,

Larry Bailey
On behalf of savelopezshoreline.org

Letter from Larry Bailey

LAWRENCE B BAILEY
308 HEMLOCK LANE
LOPEZ ISLAND,WA 98261
(360) 468-3217
January 12, 2017

Chairman Hughes,

I want to apologize for speaking out of turn at the end of Tuesday’s Council meeting. I hope you will forgive me for that misstep. My only excuse, and it is not a good one, is that it is extremely difficult to remain quiet when proponents repeatedly make statements that have no basis in fact.

As I recall, you asked Lincoln Bormann what was represented to prospective donors to the Community Clure Fund. He responded that the contributors understood that their funds were nonrefundable as long as the project proceeded. Earlier in his introductory presentation, he had stated the Land Bank had not committed to final purchase of Parcel B. (Please note: In that walk-away scenario from Parcel B, the Land Bank and the Public would then end up paying $50,000 more than the current appraised value for Parcel A.)

Bormann’s response is not what the Land Bank has said to the Public in its community fund raising solicitations.

So, what are the facts?

In its 11/15/16 solicitation to the public, the Land Bank stated:

Preserve Lopez Shoreline
Please join the Lopez Island community in raising funds for the Land Bank’s acquisition of the Lopez Shoreline Preserve. Your donation is tax deductible and will be fully refunded in case the acquisition is not completed. Pledge Now.

“Roughly two miles of nearly pristine beach on the west side of Lopez Island may become accessible for nature viewing and long walks… Fronting the San Juan Channel, the shoreline with its wild and remote flavor is one of the longest publicly owned tidelands on our island… The Land Bank has secured a purchase and sale agreement on two parcels allowing community access to the beach… The Land Bank is asking the Lopez community to contribute $50,000 to close the sale. The amount is also necessary for obtaining state grants by demonstrating the community’s commitment.”

This Statement is quite different than the one the Land Bank presented to the Council for approval in its 9/16/16 2nd Amended Acquisition plan:

“The Clure property descends gradually to the shoreline of San Juan Channel offering the public the opportunity to reach nearly two miles of secluded beach.”

“ACQUISITION PLAN: While acquisition of the northern parcel (Parcel A) alone would allow public access to the shoreline, the Clure family requires some level of commitment for acquisition of both parcel A and the southern parcel (Parcel B), because of their concern that creation of public access would devalue the remaining parcel. In order to move this project forward, the Land Bank Commission is recommending moving forward with the purchase of Parcel A; closing on the property by the end of the year encumbered with a deed of trust to be paid in two annual increments ending in 2018. The Commission is also recommending that the Land Bank purchase Parcel B, but not outlay a deposit for this acquisition. Rather, the purchase and sale agreement will specify that the Lopez community will raise $50,000 toward this end. This commitment would be non-refundable. This property would also be subject to a deed of trust with an additional payment not required until December of 2018.

“The Land Bank would seek grant funding for this purchase through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Water Access Account and through the state Aquatic Land Enhancement Account in the next biennium starting in 2018. Should either or both of these grant applications succeed, the Land Bank would move to satisfy the deeds of trust on both parcels. However, should these efforts fail, and the community prove unable to raise additional funds, the Land Bank would only pay off the note on Parcel A . The contract on Parcel B could be assigned to another party or the Commission could decide to default on the purchase without having committed any public funds toward its acquisition.”

In addition to this misstatement, proponents made numerous other misstatements:

1.Public Support.

Kirm Taylor, the leader of the Lopez Trails Network, said that the 300 members of the Network supported the acquisition, as well as other Lopez Community members.

The Facts: There are approximately 300 names on the Trails Network mailing list. This list includes many Lopezians in our group who strongly oppose the acquisition. Mr Taylor did not advise mailing list members of the Clure proposal until after it was announced in The Islands’ Weekly on 11/15/16. They were not even informed or consulted. None of the Network members in our group received any requests asking for their support, so if members were solicited for their support, Mr Taylor did it very selectively.

The first time Lopezians not in the Trails Network had the opportunity to express their opinions to the Land Bank was at its 11/18 meeting, which was also the first time the Clure Purchase was ever listed on its Agenda. 63 members of the public attended: 19 spoke in favor of the acquisition and accessing a two mile beach, while 18 spoke in opposition to it.

The Land Bank/Trails Network set up a Facebook page on November 14, preservelopezwestsideshoreline, to assist its community fundraising effort. The first sentences in its solicitation state: “Around 2 miles of nearly pristine beach on the west side of Lopez Island may become accessible for nature viewing and long walks. You can help preserve it.” The site lists 90 un-named followers. LopezRocks.org promoted the fundraising site and posted a direct link to it. It represents itself as “a community website for and by Lopez Island” and states its purpose is “to provide a forum for communication and interaction between residents of Lopez Island and of the the San Juan Islands in general…” It also solicits contributions from the community to support its operation, but does not disclose its finances. In fact , it is a private enterprise owned and managed by one of the leaders of the Trails Network, who is also the husband of Tracey Cottingham who presented the Clure proposal to the Land Bank at its May 20 meeting. When supporters of the Clure proposal posted comments misstating facts and urging community support, leaders of our group responded with the facts and issues we have raised with you. This resulted in almost all of us being immediately banned by the owner from making any further public comment on Lopez Rocks.

Having been denied freedom of speech on the only online public forum for Lopez, we set up our own website, savelopezshoreline.org, on December 10 , in an attempt to educate Lopezians about the true facts and issues of the Clure proposal. As of today, our site has 57 listed and named supporters.

On its website, the Land Bank states:

“Whenever possible, the Land Bank tries to meet community priorities by purchasing conservation easements.

Selection Criteria

“The following factors must be met for the Land Bank to pursue a project :

  • The property must provide an important conservation resource.
  • The property’s identified conservation resource(s) should be vulnerable to adverse change.
  • The proposed project must adequately protect the identified conservation resource(s) of the property.
  • The acquisition should make effective use of the Land Bank’s limited funds and resources.
  • There must be general public support.”

Given all the mis-information broadcast to the public about this proposal, it is not surprising that the supporters outnumber us, but a substantial portion of the Lopez Community are opposed to this action and a substantial number of Lopez homeowners are very negatively impacted by it. There is no question that the Community has deep splits over this issue, but even a magician could not conjure the above pro and con numbers into “general public support.” No matter how you want to assess the numbers, the Clure acquisition does not meet the Land Bank’s stated selection criteria.

2. Two Miles of Beach

Every presentation to the Land Bank, the Port of Lopez, the County Council, and now to the general public has lead with the representation that “the Clure purchase will give the public access to two miles of beach…” This is simply not true.

As responsible stewards of what many call “Lopez’s last wild beach,” the shoreline owners are united, except for one homeowner, in agreeing to defend our private property boundaries to the mean high water line and to the full extent of the law, including litigation if necessary. We paid high premiums to purchase waterfront properties, pay the highest per square foot real estate taxes on Lopez, and did not invest and choose to live in a beautiful, quiet seaside neighborhood to allow our properties to be converted to public use. This means that all the best sandy places and driftwood are on private property and will be off-limits to the public. We will not allow increased public traffic over our property to destroy this last remaining beach treasure that all of us have invested in, preserved and protected for decades. If we don’t preserve and protect it, this purchase will surely destroy it and that is not the legacy we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.

3. Trespassing

The Land Bank and the Trails Network claim that trespassing will not be a problem and that people, especially Lopezians, will respect private property signage. We all wish that was true but it’s not.

The Facts: As evidenced by numerous letters from homeowners, trespassing on private property is a constant problem for shoreline property owners. At the meeting you heard from George McCain about the irreversible damage to Big Rock caused by an illegal bonfire set by trespassers on the McCain’s private property. Further, the Trails Network leaders have preached that “all beaches should be public” and that “everyone has the right to walk any beach.” This has lead to many confrontations with landowners, to wit:

(a) From: Mysti McKeehan Date: Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 11:44 AM
“Hi Larry, I am a resident of Sunset Acres. I live on the beach. My house is the most northerly house of the Sunset Acres Subdivision. I also own the meadow just north of the house (it is not part of Sunset Acres) including tidelands. My house being the fourth house south of Otis Perkins Day Park, I have had a lot of experience with people who refuse to accept that my beach and the Sunset Acres Beach are private properties despite there being County signage to that effect at Otis Perkins Park. Generally, I let this pass. However, many beach walkers have dogs that they let run free on the beach. They don’t bother to scoop poop (dangerous to sea mammals), and the dogs invade my yard and deck and chase the waterfowl. Members of the Trails Network are frequent offenders. I have no doubt that the Land Bank purchase is part of a plan to provide a beach walk from the Clure property north to Otis Perkins Day Park. The fact that the route would cross private property will not be a deterrent…..When I have talked to people about trespassing on my beach, they often rebut with the ‘all beaches should be public property’ or the ‘freedom to roam” argument.’ ”

( b) Another homeowner called to say that they have a constant problem with trespassers and once could not get a woman to move off their property. They had to call the Sheriff who was forced to threaten to arrest her to get her to leave. Mr Taylor confirmed all of this at the November 12 Port of Lopez meeting,where claiming to be speaking on behalf of the Land Bank in support of the Clure purchase, he related that his wife was almost arrested as she wandered the beach south of Otis Perkins Park. What he didn’t say was that she ignored the “No Trespassing” signs and the request of a landowner to leave, resulting in the Sheriff being called.

(c) Warren Demetrick, a 30 year resident on Eagles Roost Lane writes:
“Here are some examples of problems which I have experienced on my shoreline:

  • A group of 7 people decided to camp on our beach. It was mid July and the grass and bushes were very dry. They built a fire and sparks were being blown toward the dry vegetation by on-shore winds. If the fire had caught on the steep bank there would be no way of stopping it as it raced up toward the timbered properties above. I went with a volunteer fireman to ask the campers to put the fire out and they became belligerent and uncooperative but finally relented. An hour later they had rebuilt the fire. This time the fire department was accompanied by a policeman. The trespassers were suddenly much more meek and cooperative and were moved out.
  • Kids play in the driftwood logs and build stick houses,and have climbed in my shoreline trees to break branches for “a roof.” They leave this mess behind and it detracts from the natural order of the beach; on my property.
  • Someone has written graffiti on large rocks and driftwood logs on my shoreline. I found the graffiti very hard to remove; on my property.
  • People like to let their dogs run free on the beach. This is sometimes accompanied by shouts, barking, and dogs coming up into our yard.”

Need we say more ?

(4) Indemnification if you grant Trail Easements.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Bormann,stated that homeowners could indemnify themselves from damages for injuries to the public on their property by granting a trails easement.

This is a half-truth at best: any attorney for any injured person is professionally obligated to make a damage claim and eventually threaten to sue or sue every possible person and entity in any way connected to or involved in the property or the incident. You may be eventually reimbursed for any damages your personally have to pay out of pocket that are not covered by your homeowners policy but that is only after all the proceedings and claims are resolved.

(5) Lopez Needs this Access.

Lopez has numerous public access ways to shorelines and other recreational areas Numerous speakers for the proponents asserted their desire to be able to walk this beach and enjoy the western view, as if this beach was the only place this could be done. Really?

I have been told by many Lopezians that Lopez has more public shoreline access points than any other island in SJ County. I don’t know that for a fact, but I do know there are already at least six (6) public shoreline access points on the westside of Lopez, including Otis Perkins Park. It has almost a half mile of unobstructed waterfront where the Land Bank owns both uplands and tidelands, with the same amenities and views as the Clure parcels. This month, 800 more feet of tidelands are being added to the Park for $2000. What is wrong with this picture? Does it really make sense to spend a minimum of $425,000 of taxpayer money for the Clure Parcel A with all the issues involved, plus take this property off the tax rolls and increase everyone else’s taxes?

In addition to the westside access points, the public already has shoreline access to beaches on the east and south sides of Lopez, namely Spencer Spit, Watmough Bay, Agate Beach and Iceberg Point. When is enough, enough?

(6) Timing

In his opening remarks, Mr Bormann commented that he had been working on this project for 9 months.He went on to state that it had gone thru numerous public meetings and this was the third time he had brought it to the County Council.

The Facts:

  • The Clure matter was never placed on the Land Bank agenda until November 18, 2016;
  • The major stakeholders, the adjacent land owners, were never contacted;
  • The Land Bank did virtually nothing to investigate the property (other than physically view it, order a survey and an appraisal, and investigate access), until nearby landowners and other Lopezians objected and raised numerous questions and issues which the Land Bank had not investigated and to which it had no answers.

The only way an ordinary citizen could have known anything about the Clure proposal was to attend the Land Bank meetings (the November 18, 2016 meeting was the first held on Lopez since October, 2015) or download the meeting minutes and search for”Clure.” The County Council’s appropriation for the Clure property is buried in a non-scannable PDF “Emergency Appropriation” document linked to and from an agenda item entitled “PUBLIC HEARING: To Adopt the Second 2016 Budget Amendment.” We only were able to locate it because a member of our group is a computer techie and a skilled researcher. Since we are told the Land Bank does give the required 10 day notice of its meetings, it may have satisfied the minimum legal requirement for public notice, but it was hardly a good-faith, transparent attempt to include all adjacent homeowners as key stakeholders in the acquisition process. It certainly doesn’t meet any due process or fundamental fairness test of which I am aware.

Mr Chairman, at the end of the hearing, you asked Adrienne Adams how much “notice” people need of a proposal. I would submit notice should be given before a Commission has made a decision to take action. One major problem at this point is that the Land Bank Commissioners act offended that we would dare question their decision.They had worked with the Trails Network for almost 7 months putting together the real estate deal, apparently without ever questioning the basic assumptions inherent in this transaction (i.e. access to a “near-pristine” two mile beach, only Lopezians will use it, trespassing won’t be a problem, etc.,) or the resulting impact on the shoreline, wildlife, and the westside Lopez residents. No one else even knew about it. When one reviews the goals and policies of the state, county, and the Land Bank pertinent to the Clure transaction with an open mind, the conclusion is inescapable: this transaction does not comply with these publicly enacted goals and policies and we ask you to reject it.

Thank you for your time and service to our community.

Larry Bailey
On behalf of savelopezshoreline.org

Cc: Jamie Stephens
Bill Watson

Letter from Judy Meyer

Dear Council Members,

At this week’s County Council meeting Mr. Hughes stated that he would check with neighbors of Land Bank preserves to determine if they had problems with trespassing.  We have now done that with some of the neighbors of the Land Bank’s Crescent Beach Preserve on Orcas.  The property owner closest to the private property signage says that people walk right past the sign and that trespassing is a problem.  Others along the beach reported that the beach is full in summer and trespassing occurs, including people with dogs walking beyond the Land Bank property.  This is further evidence of our contention that the Land Bank is unable to prevent trespassing outside the boundaries of its preserves.  Purchase of the Clure property will be an invitation to trespass on the private property of landowners along Meadow Lane, Hemlock Lane, Eagle’s Roost Lane, Channel Road and Perkins Lane.  I do not think that County Council should be enabling trespassing.

Judy Meyer
Lopez Island

Letter from Judy Meyer to Port of Lopez

Lopez Port Commissioners
Sent via email 10 January 2017

Dear Steve, Ken, and Dan,

I won’t be able to attend the January meeting of the Port because I am off island caring for my granddaughter.  If I were on Lopez, I would be at the Port meeting requesting that you deny the request to use Port land to allow public access to the Clure property.   I have no idea if the Land Bank or the Clures have even asked you for this.   At today’s County Council Meeting, the Land Bank’s Lincoln Bormann stated that the Clures were working on getting access from Eagle’s Roost Lane.  I don’t know if they are requesting access through Port property.  The neighbors are being left out of the loop.  If you know something about this, could you please let me know.

My understanding is that the Port’s mission is to support economic development.  The only way that public access to the Clure property across Port land promotes economic development is if it boosts tourism on Lopez.  Yet the Land Bank and the trails group have been assuring the neighbors that this public access to the beach will be for locals not tourists.  I am skeptical of that, but if they state that as their purpose, then providing beach access to locals seems to be outside of the Port’s mission.

If in fact access is for tourists as well as locals, my concern is with numbers.  With an access off Shark Reef Road, this will become a popular stopping point for tourists on their way to Shark Reef Park.   The beach currently has minimal human traffic and is a wonderful haven for wildlife.  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).  And if visitors walk beyond the boundaries of the Clure property, they will be walking in the intertidal unless they trespass on private property.   In many respects, this acquisition is an invitation to trespass because 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 private land on which San Juan County collects taxes.

In addition, Meadow Lane and Eagle’s Roost 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 are legally questionable.

If you are asked, please decline the request for access across the Port’s land.

Sincerely,
Judy Meyer

Letter from Holly Page Bryant

To:
San Juan County Land Bank
San Juan County Council
Port of Lopez Commission

My family has owned a piece of land that is attached to this “close to two miles of nearly pristine beach” in question for nearly 25 years. For the entire time that we have owned this property we have considered ourselves Stewards of this land. In nearly every instance that we have spent time on that “pristine beach” we have packed out trash, mostly plastic, that the wildlife on the beach and in the water could mistake as food with deleterious results. To say nothing of just putting a halt, as much as we are able, to the ugliness of human detritus on this very beautiful stretch of beach. I do not say this here to gain accolades. This is the behavior that quite simply is what both of my parents, Joanne and Trevor Bryant, have instilled in their three children my sister, Jennifer Hulett-Guard, myself, Holly Page Bryant and my brother, Trevor Bryant. Through us and through our examples it has been passed to next generation in our family my nephew, Cullen Bryant and my niece McKenna Bryant. Through my parents leading us by example, we have always been taught to be of service. Many of you, my fellow Lopezians, have had first hand encounters with my parent’s and their deep, heartfelt commitment to service of this Island.

I write this because in is in great part the reason that this stretch of beach is in the pristine condition that you find it today. Our family are far from the only ones who feel this deep level of Stewardship to this land. We are definitely not the only landowners who have worked very hard to keep this beach a place where wildlife is allowed to thrive with very little encroachment by humans and our debris. It has been well elucidated within other people’s testimony just how many and diverse wild inhabitants this beach call home from nesting Bald Eagles to the mother Sea Lions from colony on Shark Reef that here, on this wild beach, have an undisturbed place to haul out and leave their pups in safety. The attached photo represents the amount of debris that just one of us might haul off the beach in one single hour and a half walk.

Then there are the beach fires and the illegal fireworks. I personally have stopped three fires that were set by people trespassing on private property. The people in question could not name a single family whose land they were setting on fire. Regarding fireworks there have been no less than a dozen times that I have stopped people from using the beach to light off illegal fireworks, from bottle rockets to firecrackers. One woman could not understand why I was stopping her child from having “fun” on the 4th of July. That “fun” included lighting firecrackers and throwing them into driftwood and onto parts of the adjacent bank. These were just the ones that I stopped…when it clearly is posted all over our Island that ALL fireworks are illegal on Lopez Island because of the fire danger that they represent.
The fire danger. That is a very real nightmare that we as landowners, and the families of landowners, live with constantly. I became a Lopezian when my disability forced me to move in with my parents back in the beginning of June of this last Summer. One of the very first things that my father said to me when I arrived here was that we were “on our own” if a fire ever broke out on our property due to the inaccessible nature of most of our land. That is no slight what so ever on our wonderful Fire Dept.! It is just a fact of where we live. Our land is difficult to reach and unlike the City that I moved here from…there are no handy fireplugs! That does not even address the steep bank that leads down to the our beach portion of our property. That bank is far too hazardous to climb without staying on our pathway. It would be risking your very life to try to fight a fire on the bank. Needless to say when I found someone chucking flames (firecrackers) into that same bank I was not happy. Especially when the woman in question decided that I was simply “out to spoil the 4th of July for her child”. She literally waited until I walked away to start right back up again…because she did not care about the wildlife that she was terrifying, nor did she care about the very REAL fire danger that every Lopezian lives with during our hot and dry summers, she did not care that she was endangering not just my parent’s home but, all the homes of every other family that lives along this beach as well. I had to stop her three different times! It was not her home so she simply did not care that she was teaching her child that it was okay to endanger other people’s property. There is literally NO WAY to stop a fire on this long stretch of beach if one ever got ahold of the bank.

So, you can probably imagine the dismay that I felt when I saw a notice in late November proclaiming that there was a great opportunity for the Land Bank to purchase “the Clure Properties” which would allow public access to nearly two miles of pristine beach…the very beach that is owned by my family and many other families. I saw that the Land Bank had posted the map of how to get to our beach online. That the Land Bank was extolling the beauty of this secluded beach and that you could bring your families down for long walks at sunset. It spoke of being able to put in a parking lot and how there could be “easy” access for people with limited mobility. All in order to “save” this beach. They even used the term “West Side Beach Preserve” saying that by purchasing the “Clure Properties” we would be saving this beach from future development. I asked my father what was going on, when did the Land Bank speak with him or any of the other landowners? The simple truth is that they did not. Nor were the Land Bank being truthful when they said that this purchase was necessary in order to “save this beach from future development”. The parcels of land contiguous with this beach are not zoned to allow development. They are zoned for single families homes. The only “development” that has ever been brought to question in the whole time we have owned our portion of this beach, or for that matter, for as long as this beach has been in existence, is the development that the Land Bank is trying for right now…the parking lot, the easy access for the disabled, the public access to two miles of beach. What the Land Bank did not explain was that for the greater part this beach is indeed privately owned property. Nor did it explain just how there would be “easy” access for people with mobility problems. The wash, that is where the “access” to the beach is steep and treacherous. It is where all the water runoff from the airport is diverted. The Port purchased the right to do that when the uncontrolled water runoff was damaging properties adjacent to the airport. The Port also purchased from the Clures the right to fence off any access to the beach and they own the land that I have been told is right where The Land Bank proposes to have access to the “Clure Properties”and to place a parking lot upon.

I spent the next few weeks trying to discover just what they were talking about when the Land Bank said that this was a public beach that we, as landowners, have been “keeping all to ourselves”. There is a portion of this beach that is in the public domain, the tide flats, except where the adjoining property purchased the tide flats along with their property. There is at least one of these such pieces of property along this “two mile” stretch…meaning that you would have to trespass on private property to walk all two miles even if you stayed on the tide flats. The other thing about tide flats is that they are literally underwater most of the time. This means that for you to walk along most of the sandy areas of this beach or sit down on most of the driftwood, you are trespassing on private property. The public portion of the beach consists of rocks, which in many areas are completely covered in seaweed or eel grass. If that didn’t make the going tough enough, many of the tide flats shelve off at a fairly steep angle down into the Channel. The posted “long walk at sunset” would have to be accomplished with a pair of waders since the public portion of this land is underwater most every sunset. At most the purchase of the “Clure Properties” would give the public about 250 feet of sand and driftwood that they could legally cross to get to the public tide flats.

I discovered that there had been several “public forums” talking about this “wonderful and nearly pristine beach” and what “we” could do to “save” it. I was incredibly surprised to discover two things. One, The Land Bank, which I thought was a group that was to preserve land on Lopez as close to pristine as possible, was not about preservation. I had donated some of what little money I have to this group thinking that it was to hold areas of our Island from being developed, so that the future generations of Lopezians may have the beauty of the wild nature of Lopez that we now enjoy. Secondly, I was greatly disappointed with some of the “conversations” that were cropping up in regards to this beach. We who own this land were told that we were being “elitist” or being “NIMBY” to try to protect our own property and especially if we were trying to protect this beach of which we have been for decades such very, very careful Stewards. I didn’t even know what NIMBY meant…Not In My Back Yard. A term to mean that if you object to development next to your property you are just being NIMBY. That other people’s “rights” to that development outweigh your own rights. Unfortunately, this is not near my back yard…this IS my backyard, and the backyard of many, many other people. Many people chimed in with claims that it was just our tough luck that the public will trespass on our property, that they wished, they wanted to, they coveted, (yes that was the exact word used) the beach that we owned. Some believed that posting signs telling people what part of the beach was public and what part was private property would be more than enough…especially if those same signs had the tide tables on them which showed when the public beach was underwater. I am pretty sure that no amount of signage will keep people from trespassing. Some said that the purchase was great even if it means that only 250 ft. of real beach was public. Does anyone really think that the public will stop when the rest of the beach looks so empty and inviting? No. Even the people who I share this Island with, my fellow Lopezians, have called me names for what…truly for what? For being one of many, many great Stewards of this stretch of beach. I am not elitist for being part of a family who saved for years to buy land up here on Lopez. I am not being NIMBY for not wanting to deal with trespassers, and trash, and the very, very real potential for this whole precious beach and the banks where the wildlife live to go up in flames along with our homes. Will the Land Bank insure every one of the homeowners for fire, or for accidents that any of the trespassers incur when they are on our property? I was even told in one of these Blogs that the beach isn’t visible from my house so why should I care. Really? Then there are those who say that this would be “our little Lopez Island secret”, that no one from the “outside” would even know about it. I guess that might be true if Iceberg Point was still completely covered in lichens and was pristine…without new “trails” crisscrossing delicate meadowland, or if Watmough Bay didn’t have nearly 18,000 visitors last year. The proposed access point to the Clures land is right by where over 19,000 people passed by in order to get to Shark Reef Park. It is not even remotely possible to keep this a secret if the sale and proposed use is allowed to go through.

It seems to boil down to this. First off the Clures insist that all their properties be purchased in order to gain the one piece that has beach access since “opening this property up to the public will lower the property value of the remaining pieces”. There is no provision in the sales agreement to compensate any of the other property owners that will be directly effected by this sale. Secondly, the Clures have already sold some of the access rights and the piece of property adjacent to the roadway that would allow any one to reach the Clure’s remaining properties to the Port. The Port would have to agree to mass trespassing on their land. This is land right at the far Southern edge of the airport. I see this as being potentially very dangerous. As well as there seems to be some possibility that the Clures already sold the beach access to the Port. Thirdly, the Clures insist on having the Land Bank pay them over a million dollars for the three parcels. Last time I checked on properties that the Land Bank has been trying to save, they did not have enough money to complete their own plans that are currently in the works. This is a huge amount of money. The Land Bank actually had a “fundraiser “to raise $50,000.00 to “secure the right to this purchase”…without allowing any input from the public. They just told people that it was to “Save two miles of pristine beach”, they did not explain that the access to this beach is through a wash that the Port uses to drain away excess water, they did not say that the beach was actually mostly privately owned, the public portion of the beach is underwater most of the time, nor did they say that this whole thing was rushed through without any input from the surrounding landowners, no research on what this would mean to the wildlife, nothing but, “look at how much wonderful beach we are try to secure for you.”. which is not an accurate representation of the facts.

I am truly sorry to have found out that some of my fellow Lopezians would rather trample on our property rights if those same rights get in the way of what they want. That was not how I was raised. My parents raised me to be of service to my fellow human beings, to honor all of their rights ,not just the convenient ones, and to be good Stewards of our land. and of our Planet. I am ever grateful to them for teaching us those simple rules to live by.

For all of these reasons I respectfully ask The San Juan County Land Bank, The Port of Lopez Commission, The San Juan County Commissioners and the San Juan County Council put a halt any proposed acquisition of the Clure Properties.

Sincerely,
Holly Page Bryant

Letter from Mysti McKeehan

To: San Juan County Land Bank Board
San Juan County Council

Subject: Opposition to the Clure Acquisition

I am writing because I strongly oppose the proposed purchase by the San Juan County Land Bank of the two parcels known as the Clure acquisition.

The price of the property is @$900,000. The property includes approximately 230 feet of shoreline and is approximately 10 acres. The Islands Weekly article of 11/15/2016 describes the purpose of the proposed purchase as giving “walkable trail access through an island forest to the sandy beach…solitude and beauty offered by a quiet walk on a beach…two miles of walkable beach available for walks, sunset vistas, wildlife viewing and birding.”

This description sounds attractive enough. Why am I opposed? Let’s look at the reality of the purchase.

Questionable Business Proposition

The beach property abutting that 230’ is private property above the Mean High Water (MHW) line. This means that anyone walking those two miles above the MHW line is trespassing. Many times of the day and many parts of the year, there is no public beach because below the MHW line the beach is under water.

From a financial viewpoint, what does this mean? Look at the table below. It lists 7 properties (vacant waterfront lots) currently for sale on Lopez. The Clure property is the first entry in the table.

Location Price Waterfront
Footage
$ per
Waterfront
Foot
Acres $ per Acre
Clure Property $900,000 230 $3913 10 $90,000
Lopez Sound $649,000 238 $2726 21 $30,904
Sperry Road $425,000 634 $670 6.39 $66,510
Sperry Road $349,000 88 $3966 10.59 $32,955
Sperry Road $349,000 218 $1600 10.11 $34,520
Eliza Road $325,000 200 $1625 1.36 $238,970
Eliza Road $325,000 204 $1593 1.64 $198,170
Lopez Sound $285,000 128 $2226 2.54 $112,204

The Land Bank is paying approximately $3900 per waterfront foot—the second highest—of any property in the table. Why is this a good deal for the taxpayers of San Juan County? What makes the Clure property worth this price?

Encourages Trespassing (Breaking the Law)

It is not realistic to think that beach walkers will stay within the 230’. The purchase is touted as giving access to “roughly two miles of nearly pristine beach.” That is, as long as the tide is out far enough that beach walkers can stroll below the MHW line. All the land above the Mean High Water line is private property, including most of the sandy areas and virtually all of the large beach logs. Visitors will seek to walk and sit on the most comfortable parts of the beach: the upper area of sand and logs, inevitably leading to trespassing on private lands.

The County surveyors use the range of 7.1′ to 7.4′ when measuring the MHW. Therefore when the tide is at or above approximately 7.4 feet, ALL of the public tidelands are under water. MHT line is located 24 – 37 feet seaward from the toe of the Bank. Thus, all of the beach between the “toe” (base) of the bank and the Mean High Water line (approximately 24 – 37 feet) is private.

Does Not Conform to the Land Bank Mission or Spirit

“Stewardship: Stewardship includes a broad array of land management activities designed to protect the community’s investment. Stewardship is being a good neighbor. It’s essential that we understand the land before undertaking any activities that could impact its function. Once this baseline information is assembled and processed, a management plan is created with input from the public. This valuable participation from the community helps guide the future for many of these lands and increases the effectiveness of our stewardship.”

Neighbors abutting the 230’ foot beach oppose the purchase of this property by the Land Bank as do other members of the community—ecologists, naturalists, scientists, citizens.

Ruth Mahan, first San Juan County Land Bank Director:

An intrinsic component of organizational development, which became a tradition in the land bank, is public input and involvement. Mahan said:

“When you listen and get input and process that input thoroughly and attentively, you do a better job.”(Mahan interview).

She advised anyone in similar circumstances to avoid spending time on controversial projects.

“Look for projects where there is already much appreciation for the place. Don’t spend too much time in debate wasting time that could be spent on other projects” (Mahan interview).

There is controversy surrounding this project. Please review the FAQs, Issues, and Letters on the Savelopezshoreline.org web site. There are also letters submitted to the Land Bank Board and the County Commissioners. Many protest the lack of public process, environmental studies, notification of neighboring property owners, consideration of the effects on wildlife, etc.

Compare this very limited use parcel with its 230’ of beach to the other Land Bank properties in the neighborhood: The Fisherman Bay Preserve, which includes the Spit, the Tombolo, Weeks Wetland. Consider Otis Perkins Day Park, which was recently expanded by an additional 800’ of beach for $2000—a purchase from the Sunset Acres Owners Association. In addition, there is Odlin County Park, Upright Channel Park, and Spencer Spit Park—all with low bank walkable beaches. Then there is Shark Reef Park. Why not leave this “nearly pristine beach” to wildlife and nature. Isn’t that more in keeping with the mission of the Land Bank?

As a property owner on Lopez since 2010, I have been a supporter of the Land Bank. However, I am opposed to this purchase for the reasons listed in this letter as well as in the thoughtful correspondence referenced above.

Unfortunately I am off island on January 10 for the public hearing on this proposal. I do want to register my opposition to this proposed acquisition.

Very truly yours,
Mysti McKeehan

Letter from Cynthia Moffitt

Jamie Stephens
jamies@sanjuancounty.com

Dear Councilman Stephens,

I am writing to you about the proposed SJC Land Bank acquisition of the Clure Property on Lopez Island.  I oppose the LB purchase of this property.

Having owned a house at Sunset Acres since 2003, and visited my parents at their former house, also at SA, since 1970’s, I am intimately familiar with the microenvironment of the beach associated with the Clure property.

The first time I heard about the LB proposal was in late November 2016 from the Islander Newspaper.  That’s all the information I have received.  A land use change such as the LB Clure/Beach property requires early and continuous public involvement and necessitates meaningful public discussion about the proposed change.

Since the beach area for the LB proposal abuts our private beach, many hikers, often with their unleashed dogs, currently trespass over the SA beach to get to the LB part of the beach.  I estimate the number of public visitors on the SA beach during summer months to be significantly higher – in the range of 1000 walkers per month or higher – if the LB proposal is approved.

As others who oppose the LB proposal have noted to you, the public part of the beach is extremely limited and is below the Mean High Water, MHW i.e. tidelands.  At most times of the day and during most times of the year, there is no public beach to walk on.

My question to the Land Bank and County Commissioners is who is liable if there is an out of control fire on the beach that spreads up a bank on to the uplands? The bank along the two-mile beach associated with the Clure property is mostly covered with trees, shrubs and grass and is often tinder dry from June – September.   Is it the Lopez Community Trails Network, the San Juan County Land Bank, San Juan County, WA State DNR or another jurisdiction that is liable?  Or is it the property owner? Costs for such a fire, particularly if it were to damage house(s) up on the bank can exceed $1 million.

Recall the Shark Reef fire that occurred on June 2016.  An illegal camper at Sharks Reef that arrived apparently via kayak started the fire.  The person likely thought the fire was out but embers in the pit re-ignited the campfire. The Lopez fire crew had to fight the fire with 20-pound water containers hauled on their backs into Shark Reef County Park.  It’s difficult work for the fire fighters and an exhausting way to fight a fire. Keep in mind Lopez Fire Department has no backup available trucks from other Fire Departments to aid their fire fighting.

I’ve experienced campfires smoldering the next day after persons left from the fire – one fire was close to my house on a low bank property.  About a year ago, in mid-summer, I smelled smoke but could not see it. Upon closer inspection of our beach I found a partially buried fire.   It took two neighbors and myself an hour to shovel out the still burning driftwood embers and throw them in the San Juan Channel.  There’s no access on the beach to water from a house.

Furthermore it’s not possible to drive a fire truck on the LB beach access road.  This road is substandard for a fire truck. Therefore the Lopez fire crew would likely need to hike up onto the bank to fight any fire.  In some cases perhaps, the fire crew may be able to lower their hoses from a truck if they can get access to land on the upper part of the bank.  Still this is kind of fire can be exhausting to fight for the fire crew.

In summer, is the season I worry about fire danger the most, when someone builds a fire in the evening, and a southwesterly wind blows sparks from the fire up the bank.  There’s always a surplus of wood on the beach to use for fires.  It takes only one spark to ignite a fire.  A fire can even happen if the person who set the fire, thinks they’ve buried all the embers, and leaves the beach – and then later the fire re-ignites and sparks drift up the bank into the shrubs and trees.  It’s even more challenging to fight a fire in the middle of the night.

Other fire related questions include – if a campfire is not adequately snuffed out, does the landowner of the property need to go down to the beach and make sure it is no longer an active campfire?  Banks along the beach are 50 to 70 feet in height.  That’s a significant distance to hike down the hill, even more difficult in the night.  Who will monitor the beach 24/7 for the illegal campfires?

Other fire questions include will landowners on the bank need to purchase a higher level of fire insurance premiums due to fire risk? How would an insurance agent evaluate this risk?  Does the increased risk of fire lower the value of property?  Is the lot more difficult to sell given the fire risk?

Is there a fire plan, approved by the Fire Chief, in place for the LB proposal? Can the public review it?  In rural CA – some new homeowners are unable to purchase fire insurance due to previous fires in the area. Would this be the case here?

Cynthia Moffitt, 205 Perkins Lane, Lopez WA