Photo by Emily Gilbert/South Whidbey Record A couple and their dog walk on the blue mats at Clinton Beach that volunteers from Island Beach Access installed for people with mobility issues. The mats cannot go all the way to the beach because of the amount of driftwood washed up by winter storms.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/South Whidbey Record A couple and their dog walk on the blue mats at Clinton Beach that volunteers from Island Beach Access installed for people with mobility issues. The mats cannot go all the way to the beach because of the amount of driftwood washed up by winter storms.

Driftwood proliferation blocks beach access, but solution ‘a long way off’

Winter storms during the past two years have inundated Clinton Beach with driftwood.

Winter storms during the past two years have inundated Clinton Beach with driftwood and have blocked beach access for people with mobility issues. Unfortunately, a solution won’t be easy.

Volunteers from Island Beach Access installed bright blue mats three years ago to create an easy path to the top of the beach. Clinton Beach was dedicated as the island’s first all-access beach because people with wheelchairs or other mobility concerns had a way to the beach.

Now there is a sun-bleached sea of behemoths blocking the way for people who cannot climb over the logs.

Island Beach Access volunteer Dale Christensen said it’s the most driftwood he’s ever seen at the beach and is easily double the normal amount. He said winter storms and a nearby drainage issue are some of the reasons the beach is piled high with driftwood.

“It’s a mess right now but we’re trying to find a solution,” he said.

Besides the logistics of removing the heavy logs nestled in the sand, there is a lot of red tape to get through before driftwood can be removed. Driftwood creates fish habitat and can stabilize a beach.

Port of South Whidbey Executive Director Stan Reeves said the volunteer group has coordinated initial conversations with multiple state agencies about the issue.

Removing driftwood from most beaches in Washington state is prohibited or requires a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources. Stray logs may be authorized for removal if they are a threat to “navigation, life, property, the environment, or a publicly owned aquatic resource and the affected regulatory agencies permit the removal,” according to a state fact sheet.

“Unfortunately, the actual removal of driftwood from Clinton Beach is a long-way off,” Reeves wrote in an email.

Island Beach Access has made some headway at improving access at another beach in the South End. The mobility-minded group has obtained permits to install two parking spaces at Robinson Beach in Mutiny Bay that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Volunteers also plan to move the blue mats from Clinton Beach to the other beach because they can’t be used.

They have applied for a grant for some of the cost but would welcome donations for the new parking spaces and for more mats but need close to $5,000 more. Anyone interested in their work can contact info@islandbeachaccess.org for more information.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/South Whidbey Record The amount of driftwood at Clinton Beach has significantly increased after winter storms the previous two years.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/South Whidbey Record The amount of driftwood at Clinton Beach has significantly increased after winter storms the previous two years.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/South Whidbey Record 
A couple and their dog climb over the driftwood at Clinton Beach that has piled up after winter storms.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/South Whidbey Record A couple and their dog climb over the driftwood at Clinton Beach that has piled up after winter storms.

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