Letter from Warren Demetrick

To:

San Juan County Council members
Land Bank Commissioners
Lopez Port Commissioners

Respected Officials ,

I oppose the Land Bank attempt to create a public beach by purchase of the Clure Lopez property West of the Airport. In this area west of the Lopez airport the seaward 25 to 36 feet of the beach is part of the adjacent private property as defined by the county,  and this strip would receive all of the beach traffic.

This part of the beach is made up of the walkable sand stretch, the driftwood, the toe of the highbank, and adjacent rocks thereof. This seaward extent is defined by the average high tide as specified by the county. This means that beachwalkers would be on private property at least half of the time. Also, at that point the sea bottom gets steeper and increasingly covered by slippery stones so walkers would seek to walk in comfort on the private property even at low tide.

Public at large would not know where the beach transitions to private property.  This would open up a situation for community unrest and many conflicts between the public and current homeowners.

Here are the Big Questions :

  • How will the Land Bank and the county guarantee the property owners that they  ( the Land Bank and County) will control the public and enforce a line between public and private beach?
  • How will the Land Bank and County assume all responsibility for damages to the private property when caused by the visiting public?
  • Will the Land Bank and the County guarantee they would assume full liability for any member of the Public who is injured while trespassing on adjacent private property?

If you can not or will not address the above three issues, then I am fully against your attempt to create a public beach where property boundaries, legal issues, and geological features are against it. Your decisions here should not be based on a popularity contest, but on existing county rules, regulations,  and laws.

Respectfully,

Warren Demetrick
Property  parcel number   253343006000

Letter from Joanna & Jeff Richey

To: San Juan County Land Bank Board,
San Juan County Council,
Lopez Community Trails Network

We are writing to you to register our opposition to the proposed acquisition by the San Juan County Land Bank of two properties, known as the Clure acquisition located on the southwestern side of Lopez Island off Meadow Land near its intersection with Shark Reef Road. We are property owners on Lopez Island at 215 Perkins Lane, Sunset Acres. Joanna is President of the Sunset Acres Owners Association, the Homeowners Association for the Sunset Acres plat.

The proposed acquisition would give public access to a 2‐mile stretch of partly private (landward of the Mean High Water, MHW mark) and partly public (west or waterward of the MHW) beach that runs north from the Clure properties to Sunset Acres beach. Sunset Acres beach is a private beach (including the tidelands). Sunset Acres Owners Association and individual property owners in the Sunset Acres plat own the whole Sunset Acres beach both landward of the Mean High Water, MHW and the tidelands, i.e., waterward of the MHW.

The proposal for acquiring these properties is sponsored by the Lopez Community Trails Network. We originally heard about this proposal from the Network. When we heard about it, the stated purpose of the acquisition was to allow public access to the 2‐mile stretch of beach along the west coast of Lopez Island. The information we received implied that the whole beach was already public but had limited usage due to having no public land access.

At that time we thought the provision of public access to an already public beach was reasonable. However after gathering more detailed information we do not support the proposal. The public part of the 2‐mile stretch is extremely limited and is below the Mean High Water, MHW, i.e., the tidelands. This means that at many times of the day and during many parts of the year, there is no, or virtually no public beach. The rest of the beach, i.e., above the MHW, is owned by the property owners on the bluffs above the beach. It is therefore a private beach. We have since learned that even access from the public road to this proposed acquisition may be questionable.

Many of the property owners of the 2‐mile stretch of beach are concerned about trespassing, increased risk of fire and beach/bluff degradation. We share these concerns. We are also concerned that these same increased risks will accrue to the Sunset Acres beach since it is immediately north of the 2­‐mile stretch of beach. The 2‐mile stretch of beach is very isolated and will not be owned and hence not managed directly by the Land Bank. The Land Bank will only own the access properties, and will not be responsible for any damage that may occur to the beach to the north. This is a different situation than other Land Bank properties on Lopez Island. The other properties are owned and directly managed by the Land Bank and visited on a regular basis by the Lopez Island Steward.

Lopez Island is a beautiful but fragile ecosystem. There are already many wonderful public beaches on the island including county parks, Agate Beach, Odlin and Otis Perkins Day Park, Spencer Spit State Park, the Land Bank Watmough Bay Preserve, the Land Bank Fisherman Bay Preserves – which now include an additional 800 feet of public beach along the Tombolo that the Sunset Acres Owners Association sold to the Land Bank in December 2016, and others areas such as Iceberg Point.

If Washington had a different history and legal structure for ownership of shorelines perhaps all shorelines would be public. However that is not the case. The benefits of this acquisition are very limited and put private property at risk. In addition, the cost of the acquisition ($900,000) is high, both in terms of impact and dollars. There are other properties that if purchased by the Land Bank, using the same funds, would give Lopez residents and tourists more benefits.

Unfortunately we are out of the country on January 10 when the Council holds its public hearing on this proposal. We are registering our opposition to this proposed acquisition as individuals not as representatives of Sunset Acres Owners Association. However, we have heard similar concerns and opposition from other Sunset Acres property owners.

We oppose this proposal and ask that you do not approve it.

Sincerely,

Joanna and Jeff Richey

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.

Sincerely,

Judy Meyer
498 Shoreland Dr.
Lopez

Letter from Helen Wrolstad

Dear Commissioners,

Existing public beaches on Lopez Island all have extensive upland to support their beach front so their entire beaches are owned and enjoyed by the public. They also have supervised off-the-public-road parking and access trails that are safe and maintained within their property boundaries. Examples are Odlin Park, Spencer Spit, and Watmough Bay.
The proposed Clure purchase by the Land Bank has NONE of the above conditions. There is very little upland beach front and, as of now, no planned parking. The property has no access to a public road. To gain access they would have to trespass over private land or private easements. The existing way to the beach through the property is on private easements that are not meant for public use.
According to Washington State law, upland ownership is the key to how much of a beach can be dedicated to public use. This particular stretch of beach has private owners down to the Mean High Tide Line because the bank and land above is all privately owned.  Therefore this proposal does NOT provide access to two miles of “nearly pristine beach on the West side of Lopez Island” as the Land Bank stated in an 11/15/16  news article. It only provides access to 233 feet of beach from the bank to the water’s edge as this is the frontage of the Clure property. The rest of the two miles has only public tideland and that will be under water except at low tide. Tideland is NOT the entire beach. The sand and driftwood areas above the Mean High Tide Line would be private, except at the base of the Clure property. ANYONE WHO WALKS ON THE PRIVATE LAND IS TRESPASSING.
Can the Land Bank keep people from trespassing on the private beach areas? Probably not. Signs haven’t worked in other areas. Already the head of the Trails Group has been photographed trespassing on my property.
The Land Bank has published that it will end up paying about $900,000.00 for parcels A and B of the Clure property. This property has 233 feet of waterfront so it would be $3,863.00 per foot. Even if the Land Bank feels no guilt using public money in such an extravagant way, it should be very concerned about all the trespassing this proposal sets up. It doesn’t matter how many folk think it is okay to trespass; it is still illegal.  Doing so is an accident, arrest, or a lawsuit waiting to happen.
It is impossible to legally use this property as its proponents envisioned. Many people have written and detailed reasons why the sale should stop so I won’t repeat them here. You could go to savelopezshoreline.com.  I do implore that you abandon this purchase before it is too late.
Respectfully,
Helen Wrolstad
377 Meadow Lane since 1972

Letter from Carol Purvis, George and Alice McCain, and Jay McCain

Dear Commissioners,

We are writing in regard to the proposed acquisition of the Clure properties on Lopez Island by the Land Bank.

We own, and have owned for 49 years, lots 10 and 11 in Sunset Acres (SA). Lot 11 is the southernmost lot in SA and is on the northern border of the 2 mile stretch of beach that the Land Bank is considering opening to the public through the Clure acquisition.

We would like to relate our experience with the beach that SA owns since the Otis Perkins Day Park was created, which abetted access by the public to the Sunset Acres beach. Prior to the Perkins Day Park our beach was pretty much inaccessible and remained in a natural state. Since then, in spite of conspicuous County signs warning that the beach to the South of the Perkins Day Park was private, we have found many signs of human encroachment and especially illegal fires on the beach, several of which have scorched grasses that are on the hillside and which could easily spread up the bank and cause major property damage to the houses above. We also see many “structures” built of driftwood gathered from our property, including a massive one that was perched on top of Big Rock at Rock Point.

The very concerning damage, which you may or may not have heard of, was done to “Big Rock” several years ago. FYI, Big Rock gave Rock Point its name and is a charted navigational feature and has a National Geodetic Survey Marker on top. We, as owners of Lot 11 of SA are also the owners of Big Rock, as can be seen on the SJC Polaris app. Some parties unknown set a very large bonfire up against the East face of Big Rock and as a result a huge slab of rock fell off. Fortunately no one seems to have been hurt when the slabs of rock fell and hopefully no one will be hurt when another slab falls (it appears that the fire opened up another fissure in the rock which may fall at any time). There is no reason to think that the opening of the 2 miles of beach south of Sunset Acres, through the Clure acquisition, will not lead to the same abuse of private property and the “near pristine” beach.

A look at the plat of Lot 11, SA, on Polaris will show that Big Rock is connected to the main body of Lot 11, even at maximum high tide, so that it is impossible, without wading in knee deep water, to walk down the beach without crossing over our private property. The establishment of Otis Perkins Park has brought untold numbers of trespassers onto our property, as well as the beach property of SA owners and the owners of several lots in SA who still own their tidelands. The placement of County signage is obviously not a deterrent and never will be. It is hard to imagine how any signage at the Clure end of the beach will be any more effective at keeping people off the private uplands of the beach and setting bonfires and leaving trash behind.

As an aside, SA owns 800 feet of beach immediately North of Otis Perkins Day Park and has offered that beach to the Land Bank. Land Bank has offered SA a nominal amount of $2,000 and is in the process of finalizing that purchase. This is an extremely modest amount and legalizes the use of that beach by the public. The use of nearly $1 million in taxpayer money to enable access to 2 miles of the same beach boggles the mind.

We feel that the Land Bank needs to look at what its priorities are in regard to public access to the majesty and environmental value of the San Juan Islands. We find it ironic that the letter from the Land Bank that was posted in the Islands Weekly, Tue, Nov 15th, 2016, begins …”two miles of nearly pristine beach may become accessible for nature viewing and long walks.” As can be attested by our experience in SA with public access to beaches, legal or illegal, the beach will NOT remain pristine. The Land Bank is evidently focusing on acquiring property to enable increased hiking everywhere on the island rather than making responsible decisions that take environmental effects of their actions into account.

The 2 mile beach in question is currently legally accessible by boat, and it would seem that is a viable use of the beach which will preserve it in its “nearly pristine condition”. We strongly urge the Commissioners to not pursue the purchase of the Clure properties and save +/- $1 million for other worthy acquisitions which will not pose the same threats of harmful damage to the Island’s environment and the properties of private property owners.

Sincerely,
Carol Purvis, George and Alice McCain, and Jay McCain

East face of Big Rock showing the huge slabs of rock that have fallen off due to a large bonfire set against it in 2014. More fissures can be seen which indicate that more slabs will eventually fall.
East face of Big Rock showing the huge slabs of rock that have fallen off due to a large bonfire set against it in 2014. More fissures can be seen which indicate that more slabs will eventually fall.
Typical “structures” using driftwood dragged off private property, which was hauled up onto Big Rock (which is also private property).
Typical “structures” using driftwood dragged off private property, which was hauled up onto Big Rock (which is also private property).
More typical structures found built on our Lots 10 & 11, in spite of SJC signs at the south border of Otis Perkins Day Park warning that the beach to the south is private property.
More typical structures found built on our Lots 10 & 11, in spite of SJC signs at the south border of Otis Perkins Day Park warning that the beach to the south is private property.
mccain-lb-acquisition-big-rock-4
More typical structures found built on our Lots 10 & 11.

Letter from George J. (Jim) Kenagy

As a Lopez Island property owner (in the Mud Bay area) I’m writing to register my opposition to the Land Bank’s (LB) intention to acquire the Clure property on the western shoreline of Lopez Island. My opposition is based upon several issues, most notably (1) the poor rights and potential routes of access into the subject property from the public road near the airport, (2) the poor to non-existent rights and potential routes of potential movement of the public across the very narrow beach area at the bottom of the bluff, (3) the unfavorable impact of the foregoing situations on the future condition of private and public lands at the beach interface, and (4) the awkward history of the subject property itself.

Regarding my points (1) and (2), the proposed acquisition of the Clure property is not a stand-alone acquisition of a piece of land with its own environmental uniqueness. It has apparently been proposed for acquisition in order to provide public access to the beach below the bluff. However, legal research into the status of easements from the public road into the property indicates that legal access is precarious at best. And further access from the property down to the bottom of the bluff is also precarious, and even more so when it comes to potential legal movement north or south along the base of the bluff. Down below, it now appears that human movement is not possible (under most all tidal conditions) over the actual public land and would require considerable regular trespassing across private ownerships.

The long history of the Clure property on the market, due to its poor access rights and overpricing, is itself problematic. It seems unfair and unreasonable for property owners who have been unable to sell their property to collaborate with their real estate agent and with county officials to get the public to acquire such a problematic property. As such, the relationships between these parties seem to be a conflict of interest with the public good. I also feel that communication with the public in advance of the subject proposal has not been adequate, nor particularly transparent as to what is really going on here.

Finally I would like to suggest that San Juan County citizens and government officials should consider re-evaluating the present and future role of the Land Bank, in light of the example that the subject case seems to offer in terms of difficulties and limitations of land acquisition, waterfront in particular. Perhaps there are still some appropriate upland pieces of land, contiguous to other public holdings, that would be useful additions to LB holdings. But it seems to me that in general we are already blessed with a good and sufficient array of reasonably accessible public lands; what we have seems to be more than our county is able to monitor and manage, which I realize is a result of lack of funds allocated for maintenance and improvement. SJC has been in the rare and enviable position of having a Land Bank law, and it has served us well. But perhaps it’s time to reduce the role of the LB in future acquisitions; and rather to focus on maintenance and management of existing public lands. Have we acquired enough? If only properties such as the subject Clure property are available now and in the foreseeable future, then perhaps it’s time to conclude the acquisition phase, and focus on improving the quality of the experiences available on existing public lands.

I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you personally about my criticisms and the issues I’ve raised. Please call me at 206 719 1576. I am also willing to call you, if you could please provide a time and number at which you are available for discussion.

Sincerely yours,

George J. Kenagy

Letter from Murray & Mariette Trelease

Dear Friends,

Mariette and I join with most of our neighbors, north and south of us (we are at 343 Eagles Roost) in opposing the purchase of the Clure property for public access to the beach at the foot of our properties creating a de facto public park.
Mariette, having grown up in Hawaii is accustomed to and in agreement with the concept of all beaches being public.  So the law allows and property is bought and sold with that legal understanding.
This is not the case on Lopez Island.  We buy and sell property with waterfront boundaries established by mean high water readings.
We are responsible for these properties in their full extent and we pay taxes accordingly.
We are also liable, as any attorney would agree, for any injury or mischance that takes place within our boundaries: falling off or being injured by logs, being attack by a dog, setting a fire that spreads, etc.
The beach and hillside are very fragile.  Many of our properties, ours included, have experienced slides with rocks and trees being up rooted up and sent crashing to the beach below.  Most of the slides are natural but people playing at the foot of the bank or trying to climb without a trail have dislodged the soil.
The high banks are covered with highly flammable grasses and plants.  Thoughtless (though not basically evil) campers have started beach fires which mercifully have seen discovered and extinguished before spreading.
Most people keep their dogs on leash.  But not all.  And there have been moments of fear when young children were attacked.
All of these concerns arise from our many years (40) here.  What we object to is the exacerbation of these concerns when the beach is considered public property.
Many people walk our beaches.  Some are property owners and friends. But many are strangers who come to the beach in various ways and have always been welcomed and enjoyed as long as they respected the beach and others walking it.
Our fear is that making our property a de facto public park will bring hundreds of people, diminish the “pristine” nature of the land, discourage the presence of wildlife, both large and small and increasing the likelihood of damage and injury for which we would be responsible (We have heard no plan for monitoring and maintenance)
We would ask that in your deliberations concerning this purchase and its subsequent ramifications you would take seriously our objections based upon history and fact.
We trust in your good judgement.
Sincerely,
Murray and Mariette Trelease

Letter from Patrick Amo

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

From: Patrick Amo, Lopez Island

Re: Proposed Public Access to Lopez Westside Beach (aka Clure Property)

I have owned land on Lopez Island for over 25 years, have lived here part-time for 14 years, and plan to be living on Lopez full-time by 2018.

In explaining to friends and family why I love Lopez Island I always mention the foresight and stewardship shown by the community’s ongoing acquisition of private lands to protect and hold for the good of the present and future public generations. I visit these places often and continue to be amazed and grateful when new opportunities arise to add to this legacy of public land. I am proud to be a member of a community with such high standards of stewardship for our children and their children who will inherit this beautiful place. Another thing I mention is how much I like Lopez Island because of its size. There are many factors that determine whether a community as a polity fails or thrives. One of the more overlooked factors is simply: size. Although size is dynamic, for as long as I have been coming to Lopez it has always struck me as the right size for healthy political functioning. There are enough people, and the right sorts of people, to get things done. And since most everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows their friends and families, or has a child that goes to school with their child, it’s hard to get away with less than stellar citizenship. I once read a definition of Karma: Karma means you don’t get away with nothin’! Lopez Island is like that. Because of its size you have to do the right thing else you’ll hear about it. But more than that. It’s not enough to do the right thing. The process by which you do the right thing matters as well.

I submit that however well-intentioned, the process by which the Land Bank has pursued the acquisition of the Clure parcels as access to Lopez westside beach, does not measure up to the procedural standards of fairness, due diligence, and disclosure, implicit though they may be, of this small island, nor for that matter, do they measure up to the standards explicit in the Land Bank’s charter. I don’t think the ecological sensitivity of the areas to be affected has been adequately assessed. Nor has that of the human beings who will be directly or indirectly affected by this acquisition.

I urge you to heed the loud outcry over this acquisition and slow or stop this process until these concerns have been adequately addressed.

Respectfully,

Patrick Amo
Whiskey Hill
Lopez Island, WA

Letter from Eric Dillon

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

I am writing to voice my strong opposition to the purchase of the Clure property by the Land Bank. My family has owned land for over 40 years next to the proposed Clure project.

I have included a number of interested parties on this ping but I am speaking directly to the Land Bank.   I am well aware of the flood of letters you have been receiving from concerned property owners objecting to the Clure purchase.   I won’t repeat all the facts of those opposing this transaction for you have dozens of letters doing that but clearly an outcry like this has to resonate with you for the people screaming are both concerned adjacent land owners and your neighbors.  I would also offer that most the folks screaming support both the good work the Land Bank has historically done as well as I suspect many are current or future contributors to the Land Bank, you need to pay attention to these voices.

Specifically, I urge you to be responsive to the outcry you have seen and take action that puts this project back into a thoughtful review process.   It should be clear to you that the process that was employed here was not conducted in an open and logical manner and that is not right especially for a non-profit group.   I sit on the boards of the Idaho Nature Conservancy as well as the Montana-based Prairie Foundation and have done several conservation easements on private land I own in Washington and Montana.   There are always sensitive issues around public works adjacent to private land and any projects that “open access up” have to be vetted and only done with strong local support.  You did not do thoughtful “impact” research here as well as you did not seek community support.   Often in my role with the conservancy we are looking into JV’ing with the local Idaho Land Banks and while I understand the LB mission I will tell you that with every property purchased and with every easement we put in place, we care deeply about the “locals” and the process employed.   Thru town halls and other means we listen to the community (especially those most impacted) before we make any decisions.    A community outcry like you are seeing on the Clure project has to be re-reviewed and re-opened.   Going forward with projects without the proper impact/environmental studies where there is overwhelming negative “local” outcry is just bad business and I would suggest counter to the charter the Land Bank was founded upon.

I urge you to stop the current transaction and conduct a thoughtful, open review with the community especially those private landowner neighbors most impacted.   Community leaders on this ping, I urge you to restrict this process with any legal means at your disposal for the Land Bank has not done proper work here and this cannot be how you want your wonderful island to operate.   Thanks for hearing me out….

Eric Dillon

Letter from Albert & Marilyn Berger

Dear San Juan County Council Members,  Land Bank Commissioners and Lopez
Port Commissioners:

As longtime residents of Lopez Island we want to express our strong opposition to the Land Bank acquisition of the Clure property on Lopez Island.  Our opposition is based on the following concerns.

1. LACK OF DUE PROCESS We are appalled by the lack of any substantial public process, leading up to the current purchase agreement with the Clures.  It is apparent that this Land Bank purchase was pushed almost exclusively by the Lopez Trails Association and the Clure Family. There is a lack of public process to include key stakeholders from the public process.  Nearby property owners, that would be most impacted by such a purchase were not informed or given any type of notice by the Land Bank.  This is adverse to how the public process is supposed to work. By avoiding open public hearings – this is inimical to the open governance laws by which San Juan County must operate within.

2. LACK OF ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY Based on the information to date that we have looked at, the Land Bank has done very little study of the effects this acquisition will have on the environment, wildlife, the feeder bluffs and the surrounding neighborhood.

For example, the feeder bluffs along this entire two mile beach have been identified as the highest priority bluffs for restoration in San Juan County (Coastal Geologic Services Study for Friends of the San Juans, 2010).  The suitability of introducing high traffic onto this sensitive beach must be examined thoroughly.  The prospect of thousands of visitors in a given year accessing this beach with increased car traffic on an already dangerous Shark Reef Road corner needs to be studied.

Parking and people choosing alternative passage to and from the beach are additional issues.  Whether deemed legal or not, beach parties will occur, beach fires will be made, trash will be left, dogs will run off leash, and people will get injured.

Who will be policing these illegal activities?  Who will monitor and maintain the flora and fauna at the existing level? Who will keep the public from trespassing on private property?  Access to the beach will result in foot traffic to the beach areas within the private property lines of the upland homeowners who own to the Mean High Tide Line, which per San Juan County surveys show extends a minimum of 25 feet seaward/westward from the base of the bluff for the entire length of this beach.   Thus, it is clearly foreseeable that the acquisition of the Clure property for beach and trail access will lead to trespass related confrontations between homeowners and visitors.

All of these call for a full and meaningful environmental review before any purchase is contemplated.

3. PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE WESTERN SHORELINE ALREADY EXISTS Currently there already is public access to this shoreline in two public areas (Otis Perkins Park and Shark Reef County Park).  We have walked the entire shoreline from Otis Perkins Park all the way south to just north of Shark Reef Park.  This is a distance of approximately two miles. There is some concern that a few of the lots at the north end of this shoreline have what is termed “second-class tidelands.” If it turns out that such ownership is of concern then we suggest that the Land Bank would be doing the public a greater good by purchasing these limited tidelands and therefore opening up the entire shoreline for public access from Otis Perkins Park southward.

Shark Reef County Park is about 1 mile south along Shark Reef Rd. and is a public park that has access to the San Juan Channel shoreline.  Shark Reef Park is a popular destination attracting thousands of islanders and visitors each year.  Thus it is not clear why additional resources need to be used to provide added access to the shoreline. Nor is it neither proper nor necessary for the Land Bank to duplicate what is already available public access.

4. ADVERSE IMPACT TO WILDLIFE ON THE BEACH The Land bank proposal to acquire the Clure property and increase access to the shoreline will adversely impact the wildlife on the beach. This proposed public access will bring many more visitors to the shoreline which is a nesting location for many ducks and birds such as the harlequin ducks, great blue herons, oyster catchers and bald eagles. There are families of river otters and deer who will be harmed by the influx of visitors.  Seals will be harmed.  This shoreline is used by seals; seal pups can be readily observed on this beach.  Many of these seals come onto the beach from Shark Reef, and Shark Reef itself is the only marine mammal haul out area along the entire 7 mile west shore of Lopez Island between Shark Reef County Park and Upright Head.

Significantly, Shark Reef is designated as a National Wildlife Refuge by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  At low tide, Shark Reef is only about 100 yards from the walkable shoreline.  People are requested to stay at least 200 yards from any National Wildlife Refuge to minimize disturbance. Increased visitation would clearly increase that disturbance from beach walkers and their dogs, on or off leash, in an area where marine mammals seldom experience such disturbance.  All of this important wildlife will be negatively impacted by the additional usage of this shoreline as a result of the proposed project.

We are very concerned that no one will be  present to monitor the potential large groups of bicyclists, people with dogs who let their dogs roam off leash that maybe present on this shoreline.  Our concerns in this regard stem from our experience as BLM monitors here on Lopez Island and the impact we have seen as monitors of visitors to the newly established monument areas such as in Iceberg Point.  The Shark Reef shoreline is a sensitive environment – all of which will be disturbed by increasing the visitors who will access this pristine place on this shoreline.

CONCLUSION We strongly believe that the Land Bank is rushing to judgment without proper evaluation and formal reviews of the project and the everlasting effect such acquisition would have on the property, beach, wildlife, Shark Reef National Wildlife Refuges and the nearby homeowners.

The Land Bank activities and proposed conservation projects should be designed to protect the community’s investment, and specifically stewardship to be a good neighbor.  The acquisition of the Clure property does not carry out the Land Bank mission.  We sincerely hope that you abandon this proposed acquisition.

Thank you,

Albert and Marilyn Berger
Lopez Island