LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Greenbank landing is a community resource
December 31, 2009 · 11:23 AM
To the editor:
Human usage of Greenbank-Wonn Road goes way, way back. In fact, physical evidence surfaces so frequently that the entire vicinity is supposed to be monitored as an archeological site.
The Greenbank-Wonn road-end offered American Indians a landing beach on Holmes Harbor sheltered by a rising bank from the prevailing westerly winds of summer and a cove with a warm southern exposure. Greenbank Road has always been the dry, level path to and from the sea, the first public thoroughfare in Greenbank.
With white settlement came the Greenbank wharf, reaching out to the deep water off Greenbank Road; 130-foot sternwheel steamers put in here to deliver supplies, passengers and mail. They loaded cordwood to stoke their boilers and carried away strawberries, mail and passengers. Indians, settlers, real-estate developers, doctors, preachers, teachers, saints and strangers; they all arrived here at the Greenbank landing before the highway was built.
The town center was at the foot of the dock - a hotel, a general store, the post office and warehouses. Greenbank was a port-of-call for the Puget Sound mosquito fleet for a least 23 years. Washington state law provides that public prescriptive rights accrue permanently if they have been utilized for any continuous period of 10 years or longer (RCW 36.87.140).
In 1944 James Pratt platted Greenbank Beach and dedicated 40-foot wide Greenbank Road "to the pubic forever." At that time it ran out to and up onto the wharf. There is no record of Mr. Pratt ever denying public usage.
Public ownership of Greenbank Road is not in doubt, but since the early 1970s various adjacent property owners have attempted to deny their neighbors access to the water across the tidelands fronting Greenbank Road with log palisades, chains and now, an intimidating stone wall. They have never been successful. Public useage of this historic public access remains unbroken from the dim past to the present.
On March 23, 2009 our county Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution C-34-09 directing the county prosecuting attorney to "bring legal action to confirm and restore the county's and the public's Greenbank/Wonn Road access." Since then no progress has been reported. The recently built blockading wall still stands and additional illegal encroachments have been perpetrated.
The Greenbank landing public access is a natural and cultural resource that has been in unbroken public use since time immemorial. If its imminent loss concerns you contact the Island County commissioners. Please urge them to make the preservation of this public resource a top priority and ask them to defend it against continuing encroachments.
This is the community of Greenbank's only usable public access.