Imagine you lived a few blocks from the water, or maybe just across the street, but you had to get in your car and drive miles so you could legally stand on the beach and skip a few stones.
That’s the situation in some areas of Whidbey Island where the shoreline is in private hands and public beach access is scarce. Island County government is taking steps to help ensure that people can get to the water without leaving their neighborhoods.
For example, Island County is currently in the midst of litigation with a Greenbank resident over the ownership of a beach property. In a split decision last year, the county commissioners accepted a donation of 300 feet of Mutiny Bay.
These actions are politically complicated and encountered snags along the way but will ultimately improve the quality of life for Whidbey residents.
County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson was especially instrumental in working to secure public beach access for this and future generations.
The county commissioners nearly passed up the chance to purchase a valuable beach property in the Glendale neighborhood of South Whidbey because of concerns that the county doesn’t have the funds to maintain it.
Fortunately, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust stepped in. The organization altered the terms of its original proposal — it agreed to manage the area preserved — and is partnering with the county to acquire the properties and is entering into a partnership with Island County to preserve them and make the beach accessible to the public.
Island County is applying to the state for two grants totaling about $900,000; the Land Trust is using its own money and borrowing more to purchase the property upfront and will hopefully be reimbursed once the county receives the grant money.
Three separate waterfront properties will be preserved. One houses the old Glendale Hotel and the pier, another is an adjacent parcel with a house and boat launch and a third is undeveloped property just south of that.
The Land Trust may remove an existing concrete boat launch and an over-water pier at Glendale. With limits on funds, the group has little choice but to demolish the over-water structures, particularly the boat launch. The end result will be 420 feet of shoreline secured for public use, but property restricted to non-motorized use only.
The pier is old and constructed with creosote pilings. It’s currently closed, and renovation to make the structure safe would top $200,000.
The Land Trust should make sure it explores every option before taking the step of removing either the boat launch or pier. With strict rules nowadays on the construction of shoreline structures, it’s likely that they will never be rebuilt once they are gone. Perhaps the Land Trust could team up with Island Citizens For Public Beach for a fundraising effort to preserve one or both of the structures.
But even if such efforts don’t work and the structures are removed, the decision to preserve a key piece of beach access for the Whidbey Island community was the right one. Once again, the Land Trust came to the rescue.