Some use county trail plan to trespass

In sharing its goals and intentions for public trails, Island County is confronted with some unintended consequences.

During a work session last Wednesday, Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said that people have been taking screen shots of the county’s online maps with the intent of crossing on to private property, apparently thinking proposed trails are already public.

Then, Price Johnson said, people are “showing up with their kids and their coolers” to walk those properties.

It’s becoming an “escalating problem,” she said, especially around Deer Lagoon.

“It’s being very much misunderstood and creating a lot of concern,” she said.

People are also walking on the dike in the Deer Lagoon area. The structure is county owned, but about one third of it extends onto private property, Public Works Director Bill Oakes said.

The murky ownership made it unclear where public access begins and ends.

The Deer Lagoon trails are in a portion of the plan dedicated to recommended future projects. The main area of concern are proposed neighborhood connectors on Sunlight Beach Road and Shore Avenue.

To help address the “unintended impact,” Assistant County Engineer Connie Bowers said the department will reach out to the property owners, install signs at the dike on property lines, install a barricade and update the non-motorized trail plan to include a watermark clarifying the Deer Lagoon trails are only a concept.

She said the trail plan project page will be removed from the county website, but the plan will still be available on the Transportation, Planning, Paths and Trails page.

Public Works is also gearing up to do culvert work in the area, and staff members are going to look at potential access improvements to the public part of the dike at the end of Deer Lagoon Road, Bowers said. The department is considering replacing the chain link fence with upright barriers and adding parking.

A meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 12 at Useless Bay Country Club.

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