Anglers to lose access to Bush Point beach
June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:16 PM
"Anglers from the mainland were blamed by Bush Point property owners for their decision to begin enforcing trespassing laws on their waterfront property.Several property owners attended Wednesday's Port of South Whidbey meeting and said they have no choice but to close their beaches to the public.No action against trespassers is expected the remainder of this fishing season, said property owner Dave Moulton. But next year beach access will be restricted.The waterfront property owners at the meeting were Dave and Teddy Moulton and Dr. Wallace Austin, but they said they spoke for almost all area property owners. Also in attendance was Dennis Keefe, who owns the old Bush Point store and who sold the limited amount of public property at Bush Point to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, which plans to build a boat ramp and possibly a fishing pier at the site.Port Commissioners Jan Smith and Gene Sears listened sympathetically to the plight of the property owners. Abuse by anglers has been an issue since salmon fishing opened this year on Aug. 1, and also during the past few years. Anglers have stood shoulder-to-shoulder at incoming tides from dawn to dusk, hoping to hook a pink or coho salmon. Publicity in mainland newspapers and fishing publications was blamed for the increasing popularity of shore fishing at Bush Point.The port has already acted this year to improve parking in the area, encourage better enforcement of fishing regulations, install additional portable toilets, and tpick up litter on the beaches. But the efforts haven't solved all the problems.Old stories about continuing littering, public urination and rude behavior were repeated at Wednesday's meeting, plus some new horror stories. The Moultons told of beach fires that creep up the bluff toward their home. Whole families from the mainland illegally camp overnight on the beach, Dave Moulton said, because they don't want to pay to take the ferry back home.The property owners told of hundreds of fish being gutted on the beach, and the remains left to the flocks of seagulls, which deposit the digested remains onto the windows of nearby homes.In the past, Austin he has asked anglers to clean up after themselves, but now he's afraid of them. I don't dare go down and ask people any more, he said. Next year at the latest I want to enforce no trespassing on my property. Private individuals own the beach and the tidelands in the area north of the Bush Point restaurant, except for the future boat ramp location where the antiquated rail launch system still rusts away.Dennis Keefe told a story that elicited an audible gasp from the small audience. Last week there were people canning fish on the beach, he said. It was just absurd.Commissioner Smith works for the Sheriff's Office, and said she would ask a deputy to meet with the property owners tomorrow. They could sign a form, and trespassing laws could be enforced immediately.However, the property owners expressed reluctance over chasing away fellow island residents. Moulton said the problem anglers come from mainland cities and include Canadians and Oregonians who think they own the beach.There was talk of checking driver's licenses and allowing local anglers to stay, but how would that be enforced?Sears said property owners will have to decide for themselves whom they allow on their land. But the port will take additional action to control anglers through the remainder of this salmon season. The port controls a house near the beach that it has been renting out, but the tenant is soon moving. A meeting special was set for Sept. 26 to discuss hiring a caretaker for the area.Part of the caretaker's compensation would be free rent in return for maintaining the public areas at Bush Point, and perhaps other duties. A similar arrangement has existed for years at the port's Possession Beach Waterfront Park. "