The rock, located on West Valley Road, was quickly painted over following the discovery of anti-Amaro graffiti on July 31. <em>(Contributed</em><em> photo)</em>

The rock, located on West Valley Road, was quickly painted over following the discovery of anti-Amaro graffiti on July 31. (Contributed photo)

Island rock painting tradition turns dark

Editor’s note: According to Lincoln Borman, executive director of the San Juan County Land Bank, there was no mention made that the Amaros believed the road was inadequate for public access at the time they purchased their farm. The easement, he added, says “for ingress, egress, and utilities,” which is a very broad statement.

According to Lincoln, there is a porta-potty on site that was moved to the top of the summit after smell complaints by the Amaros.

Finally, he said that camping is illegal on all land bank property and that anyone who discovers campers should call the Land Bank or sheriff’s office.

Left by glaciers thousands of years ago, the mammoth rock sits solitary in a field off Beaverton Valley Road. San Juan Islanders have used it as a canvas for self-expression since at least the late ‘70s, celebrating local heroes and high school sports teams, or by serving as a wedding announcement and adorning it with abstract art. It has been decorated as a dinosaur, rockfish and an octopus and dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween at least twice. Recently, however, the normally innocuous graffiti took a darker twist.

“We received a call July 31 at around 9:17 p.m. from John Amaro, stating he had seen his last name painted on the large boulder, with a red circle around it and a red ‘X’ through it,” San Juan County undersheriff Zac Reimer said. The image was quickly painted over with “Love Your Neighbor,” but the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the event as a possible threat to the family.

“However [the painter] meant it, we took it as a real threat to us and our family,” Rami Amaro said, adding that they also took it as a sign to incite others to violence.

Amaro explained that she and her husband John were shocked, disgusted and highly concerned for the safety of their 13-year-old child. They wonder why anyone in the community would do something like this.

The field surrounding the lone rock is private property, the common area of the Lake Edna Estates.

Tamara Weaver, a member of the community’s homeowners association, said there is no intention, at this point, by the association to prevent islanders from accessing the rock.

“It’s a tradition at this point,” she said, of painting the rock. “As long as people respect the property.” There have been instances of litter left in the area, she noted, gently encouraging community members to pick up after themselves and be kind to one another.

The Amaros are currently embroiled in a lawsuit with their neighbors. The couple purchased their property, Amaro Farms, approximately four years ago. At the same time, San Juan County Land Bank and San Juan Preservation Trust, a local nonprofit organization were in the process of buying a 250-acre property next door, which is now known as Mount Grant Preserve. In May 2018, the Amaros filed a lawsuit alleging that an easement that was created during a time when a subdivision was being constructed on the neighboring property was created was not intended to allow for the public access use as it is being used for now.

The land bank’s defense argued that it as an entity can invite the public to use the easements as their guests, as outlined in the original agreement. The Amaros maintain those invitees must be specifically identified people, not the general public. The lawsuit also alleged that additional property the land bank added to Mount Grant in 2017 is beyond the defunct development, and therefore outside the easements’ jurisdiction and therefore is also illegal.

Rami told the Journal they have four main issues:

• Garbage: People are littering, and the Amaros asked the land bank and preservation trust to install trash cans.

• Trespassers: The Amaros experienced people camping and lighting fires on their property, and had asked the land bank and preservation trust for fencing along the Mount Grant boundary.

• Sanitation/health: Individuals were using their property as a toilet and the Amaros requested the land bank and preservation trust install bathrooms away from the property, where it can not be smelled.

• Indemnity: Due to the unsanitary conditions, the Amaros want the land bank and preservation trust to add them to their insurance.

According to Rami, the county repeatedly told them no, and to get leverage. As a result, they went to court. That also meant, she explained, since the Amaros’ leverage was the legality of the general public accessing the property, they are asking a judge to decide if access for the general public is legal.

The case was originally filed in Skagit County in but it was transferred to San Juan County Superior Court in February. The hearing, however, is scheduled in Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington, Aug. 29, at 1 p.m., with Judge Richard T. Okrent presiding as San Juan County Judge Kathryn Loring recused herself.

With no leads, it is unknown if the graffiti spray-painted on the rock was related to the lawsuit. However, Rami noted that due to the lawsuit, the family has been harassed online and on social media. The family has also had things thrown in their driveway, people driving by screaming obscenities and someone damaged their fence. The actions against the Amaros, she said, have become increasingly more violent.

“It’s scary, and I have had friends tell me to be careful,” she said.

Rami noted that she would like the person or persons accountable to apologize in a public manner, and she would also like to know why they did it.

Reimer requests that anyone with any information regarding the July 31 incident to contact the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department.

 

The rock, located on West Valley Road, was quickly painted over following the discovery of anti-Amaro graffiti on July 31. <em>(Contributed</em><em> photo)</em>

The rock, located on West Valley Road, was quickly painted over following the discovery of anti-Amaro graffiti on July 31. (Contributed photo)