Letters to the Editor

Do not close San Juan Island's day parks

An open letter to the San Juan County Council:

As residents of San Juan Island, we are e-mailing you to comment on the proposed closing of Reuben Tarte Park, Eagle Cove Day Park, and Turn Point Park, all on San Juan Island, as reflected in the 2009 preliminary County Parks budget.

We urge you to reject these closures in the final budget for the following reasons:

1. All three parks are heavily used by island residents and visitors alike. They are among the few sites where residents have access to our island's shoreline. On the northeast corner of San Juan Island, there is no public access to the shoreline other than at Reuben Tarte Park.

Individual kayakers and commercial kayak concerns rely on Reuben Tarte Park and Turn Point Park sites as launch sites and way points on longer journeys, in the latter case for the sanitation facilities they provide in summer months, all of which are planned for elimination.

2. The closure of these parks would have unintended consequences and costs for the county that could offset most or all of the estimated cost savings. If the parks are closed, it is highly likely that they will continue to be used illicitly by residents, visitors, and kayakers.

There is simply no way that the county would be able to prevent people from accessing the park without a 24-hour police presence. And given that the public sanitation facilities at Reuben Tarte and Eagle Cove would be eliminated, the expected illicit use would also result in unsanitary conditions, thereby increasing clean-up costs and causing public health problems.

3. To the extent that these closures would limit operations of kayak touring companies and eliminate recreational options for visitors, they would have a negative impact on our island's tourism employment and revenue.

While there is no doubt that the county is under financial pressure to reduce costs for 2009, we believe that there are alternatives to closing these three parks. Volunteer stewards already work informally to help maintain these parks and keep them litter free. It would be possible to formalize and expand these volunteer efforts with little or no cost to the county.

Various individuals have already agreed to step forward and contribute to costs such as rental of portable sanitation facilities. And the many kayak touring companies who are supposed to, but don't, pay $300 per year each for access to Reuben Tarte and Turn Point, could also be part of a solution to keep the parks open.

We ask that you direct county staff to explore all available options before taking the drastic step of eliminating these important recreational sites.

Please do not close these parks.

Ron and Marcia Ashbrook
Mike and Sue Buettell
David and Susan Dehlendorf
Ann and Don Jarrell
Roger and Claudia Salquist
Leslie and Val Veirs

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