This was an interesting week. The phone rang several times
with calls from folks who had been to Chico Creek (Kitsap
County, Washington) to see if the Chum Salmon had shown up yet.
Very small numbers of fish have appeared, but two large No
Trespassing signs did.
The landowner posted No Trespassing signs about eight years
ago, and with a bit of digging at the Public Works Department
for the Kitsap County, we discovered the country had a 70 foot
right-of-way, plus an easement adjoined that which gave the
County, the Washington State Fish and Game, (and since it was
not posted by the County), the public access to the creek.
Fishing in the creek is illegal, but the fishermen walk along
the creek to the estuary where fishing is legal. Someone from
the County contacted the landowner and the signs were removed.
That was eight years ago (give or take a year or two, I'm old
so I don't remember everything too well.) The County told us
at that time they had to have access to do repairs to the culvert,
or for flood control, and yes, the public could use that access.
Fast forward. The signs are back up.
I had not kept the old maps I had, the one time I wasn't a pack
rat. So on Wednesday, my husband and I made the trip down to
the County Court House, the Public Works Department and began
tracking the property lines again. Henry, who had been in charge
of the Road Department had retired, and no one had a clue of what
we were talking about. To make matters worse, the county had
redrawn all the old maps, using Computer Aided Design (CAD) and
not only did not County right-of-way not show up, neither did
the easement. One of the ladies in the department asked another
gal if she could pull up the old maps.
And there it was. Complete with the shoreline, meander line,
country access and the easement. We obtained copies of both maps.
Now what to do.
Phone calls went out to the outdoor writer at the Kitsap Sun,
who it turns out had also been receiving phone calls on the
No Trespassing signs. He had made some phone calls but had
no solution. Then, I dialed up the State Fish & Game and
eventually the region director. I also called the Sheriff's
Department to find out what would happen if the landowner
called the Sheriff to have trespassers arrested. It turns out
no one would go to jail, and since this is what they call a
'civil matter' the Prosecuting Attorney's office would have
to decide to prosecute trespassers or not. Another call went
to the County Commissioner who still has not responded.
My hope was to get either the Fish & Game or the County to
acquire permanent access and control of the property bordering
Chico Creek. Over the month or so the salmon are in the creek,
several thousand people either fish there, or just come by to
see the wonderful spectacle of the migrating fish. Much too
valuable an educational and recreational resource to lose.
Unknown to me, at the same time, Ray Frederick and the Kitsap
Pogie Club, which is a very active group of anglers, both spin,
bait and fly anglers, were also getting phone calls.
Ray took a different approach. He didn't know about the
previous problem, and thought the way to go was to contact
the landowner and see why he had posted the signs. It seems
the major objection was the amount of trash left behind by
the fishermen. Ray's group gave that some thought and
contacted a local business, Sportsmen's Warehouse to see
if they would help.
Sportsmen's Warehouse agree to fund trash receptacles and
signs asking people not to litter and to use the trash
receptacles. The Pogie Club members will empty them and
in general police the area.
As of yesterday the No Trespassing signs are still up, but
people are already fishing there anyway. I'm told the signs
will come down by Tuesday and the landowner seems to be a
This is a good ending to the problem for this season, but
not a complete solution.
I have appointments this week to discuss the state Fish & Game
getting the access to keep this from happening in the future.
I will also discuss this with the County Commissioner as a
While this was a local problem, I wanted to write about it to
let you know there were two very different approaches to the
same problem. Mine did work several years ago, and if I had
pushed it, would have again - but it was not a permanent
solution. The Pogie Club is to be congratulated for getting
the job done, but again, still not a permanent solution.
Access to fishing water is a problem everywhere. More and
more land is posted, and with the amount of liter we see
everywhere, I can't blame the landowners for posting their
property. On top of that, with a population believing nothing
is their fault, the legal liability on property owners is huge.
And to be clear, even if the property is posted as No Trespassing,
and someone is injured on that property even though violating
the signs, the property owner is still legally liable in this
state. (Your state may be different.) The property owner is
best served by deeding the property to the state Fish & Game
and ridding himself of the problems.
What is the answer?
The more people who get involved the better. Public pressure
on state and county government agencies to obtain public access
does work. Belonging to and supporting local groups at the
grassroots level, in my opinion, is the best way to get action.
Perhaps you don't have time to be physically involved, but you
can support them through membership in the local organizations.
The old "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" is still true.
Make your voice heard. ~ DLB
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