Ladyfisher

This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 16th, 2004

Worth Fighting For

We actually got out of the house this week and went fishing. Our local salmon fishery is beginning to show a few fish and the local wisdom is early (o'dark thirty) and a low or incoming tide. The tide on our local beaches can vary as much as 13 feet, and if the tide is moving smartly it does cause bait to become confused and trapped in the seams where the water currents join.

We were not totally on the time target (a bit tough getting up and up really early when you have worked until one am) but we did spend a few hours casting - albeit unsuccessfully. I caught a couple small non-salmon, still fun!

Fishing this place, Point No Point, is a far cry from what it was a few years ago.

There is now public access.

When we first attempted to fish this area, there was a narrow, nearly one-lane road, big logs on one side (to discourage parking) the road had been illegally posted "No Parking, Fire Lane" and the locals who have some expensive homes on beachfront, made a point of calling the Sheriff's Department to alert them to all the vehicles illegally parked on the road. (Except the locals had paid for and erected the No Parking signs themselves! It only took a couple of phone calls to the County Road Department to uncover that one.)

There was also a gate at the entrance of the Light House property, usually locked. A small parking area was inside the gate, but fishermen could not depend on either getting in or being able to get out if someone locked the gate early. That happened a lot. There was an area about a quarter of a mile away where one could park, but even that much of a walk in waders wasn't a picnic.

The Coast Guard let it be known the light house property could be leased. The local tribe thought it would be a neat idea for them to hold the lease, especially since the place is also the site of a historical marker commemorating the transfer of a huge chunk of tribal property to the US government. There was some local concern that if the tribe had the lease they could also keep any one else but tribal members from using the property.

Along side the property on the water was a rather large chunk of private land (where the logs were) and it was also posted No Trespassing! Bordering one more side is marsh/tidelands. Wonderful bird habitat.

Here is a wonderful opportunity for public access all neatly tied up.

It took some pressure on the local county commissioners, phone calls, visits to the country offices, dragging them out to Point No Point to see for themselves plus multiple calls to the various government people in charge of leasing light houses to get the point across of what was really available.

There were a lot of excuses. The local Hansville residents (well the ones who didn't want any traffic on their road anyway) fought the whole idea. The county was concerned about liability, need for porta potties (which the US Coast Guard had been funding) and what to do with the Lightkeepers residents. There is also an active running radar station on the property, which assures the Coast Guard would keep an eye on the property even though the lighthouse property itself was officially leased.

It took 2 years. But the lighthouse property was leased to the county. The adjacent property with the No Trespassing signs was acquired by the county in a trade with the owner, a new parking lot was created, picnic benches magically appeared and the whole area is now open to the public! The beach is a terrific place for families to play, picnic and leaves lots of area for anglers of all types.

A wonderful asset to this region which had not existed and which was nearly lost.

Washington state does not have a public access law which makes all ocean beaches open to all. Most, including the tidelands, and private and quite often posted. As a result there is very little access except for county, state or national parks which border the ocean.

If you live in a region without public access, much less public fishing access, take heart. You can fight city hall (or in this case county government) and win. While the county did come up with the necessary funding to get the job done, there are other funds available. Remember that 10% excise tax we all pay on our fishing and boating gear? Part of those funds are paid to each state, every year to buy/improve public access.

Have a local TU or FFF group looking for a worthwhile project? Consider public access! ~ DLB

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