Seattle’s Stranger Takes On Lake Burien & The Art Of Land

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The Stranger’s Jen Graves recently wrote an article called “Just Across That Stand of Trees: Lake Burien, Posters, Hooch, Google Earth, and How to Make Art of Land” that takes on the controversy surrounding public access to our hidden gem of a (private) lake, as well as recent art-related goings-on in the B-Town and Sea-Town areas.

Here’s an excerpt:

A group of people calling themselves the Committee to Free Lake Burien has been trying for a few months to change that, because a piece of lakeside land is opening up and is zoned for a park, but with little success. This civic cause recently was taken up by an art project. On July 2, a group of artists and thinkers led by German city-philosopher Thomas Sieverts took a walking tour of Burien that culminated in Sieverts’s son Boris rallying for the cause of the lake.

How can Lake Burien access be an art project? Easily: Think of it as a line drawing, just one added to a real map—a proposed earthwork. The marks of people traipsing down to the waterfront would generate a spindly new design on the land and, more importantly, generate a new in-between social space connecting the hyperconstructed Olde Burien shopping area and the close-by but unseen wilderness (now privatized) of the lake.

Definitely worth a read…click here to check it out.

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18 Responses to “Seattle’s Stranger Takes On Lake Burien & The Art Of Land”
  1. This is a lie! There is no unseen wilderness. It is a private community on a small and fragil lake with expensive homes. In fact at least 3 of them are for sale. They are being offered for $750,000, $750,000, $1,699,000. If you are interested in living on Lake Burien and participating in a wonderful lakeside community, please call me at 206-948-8227 for an appoinment to see these great homes. By the way skinny dipping is not acceptable behavior in this community. Go back to Freemont!

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    • Maxine says:

      Robbie, can you explain what you mean about Lake Burien being fragile and how it could be damaged by having a public park on its shoreline? Thanks.

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      • Hi Maxine,

        By your comments on B-Town Blog it is apparent that you really care about Burien and so do I.

        I would like to have your thoghts on another topic and answer your question about Lake Burien. Please join me for tea or coffee at the new coffee shop , Burien Press at 473 SW 152nd St. We can have a great face to face discussion. Just call me and we will set the date and time. Robbie

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  2. Douglas says:

    If the lake is fragile, then why is there a 4th of July fireworks display on the lake. That would seem to be bad for a fragile lake.

    It’s too bad there isn’t access, but if you lived on the lake you’d want to keep “others” out too. These are landowners and it’s their investment. To the non-residents, there’s a cost to get access. Who’s willing to pay? Somebody has too.

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    • Hi Douglas,

      I really appreciate your comments and your question about the fireworks on Lake Burien.

      First off- Since it only happens once a year the lake can absorb it without any real damage. The spent fireworks that end up in the lake have been burnt and are not loaded with bacteria. The minerals from them are minimal.

      Most of the fireworks have been burnt up. The small amount of residue that washes ashore is immediately cleaned up by the property owners. Over the years there has been no evidence of injury to the natural habitat.

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  3. Rob says:

    All I know is I have lived in Burien all my life and have never seen Lake Burien. I know that it is there, as a kid I lived within a mile of it. Maybe the city could get less inoled in builinding condos and more involved with a park at lake burien. Funny the Lake Burien park is named for a torn down school and has nothing to do with the lake.

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    • If you would like to see the lake, go to the corner of 12th Ave SW and 156th St.

      Having a park on Lake Burien might seem like a good idea in its conception, but it can grow into major unforeseen problems and expenses for the city, especially on a lake this small.

      The school received it’s name because of the area it served, just as the school in Gregory Heights is named after the area. When the Lake Burien Grade School was was acquired by the city as a park, the school was torn down and the park was named Lake Burien Park in memory of the school.

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      • Brian says:


        In response to the comments above, I would also like to see any information on Lake Burien’s environment that is available, if you can point us to links or provide it on this blog.

        Rob’s point is something I am particularly concerned about. The children who grow up across the street from the lake and in the Lake Burien neighborhood can see, or at least hear, the children who live on the lake playing there, but they know that they can’t play there. It concerns me what this says about our community, and what it teaches them about our society as they come to understand why the children who live on the lake get to play there but they don’t get to, and how their parents have to explain to them why this is, despite the fact that the lake itself is public property. If you have any thoughts, as a waterfront property owner, on how we can address this issue, I would appreciate hearing them.

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        • Brian,

          You can go to… to see information on Lake Burien’s environment.

          You can google “Who Owns the Lake Bottoms?”

          Since Lake Burien is private property with no public access the public has no right to use it unless invited to use it by a property owner. Over the years the people on Lake Burien have been generous to invite their children’s friends to swim with them. I know of many people who talk about the fun they had on Lake Burien with their friends who lived there while they did not.

          It is like anything else in life. Some kids get to own a big screen TV while others do not. Some children get to cruse the sound in their parent’s boat and others do not. Some people own houses and others live in apartments. It may be hard, but that is a fact of life.
          I hope this helps.

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          • Brian says:

            Thanks, Robbie, that explanation is helpful. My understanding is that the lake itself is public property, which makes it different that owning private property. Are there other lakes this size that are completely private? It might be helpful to get an understanding of if there are other such lakes, and where they are. The several lakes in the area I’m familiar with all have public access, and my understanding is that federal, state, and local policy all favor public access to publicly-owned bodies of water.

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  4. Breck says:

    Mr. Howell,
    If you’d like to be taken seriously, maybe you should check your spelling before you submit your comments.

    By the way, what is your area of expertise, selling houses, or environmental science?


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    • Robbie Howell says:


      Actually I am Mrs. Howell. My husband is Robert and I am Robbie. I had already come to the conclusion that I needed to use spell check, but I appreciate you letting me know that.

      I am a caring creditable informed real estate consultant working with the experienced professionals at Windermere Real Estate.

      For 33 amazing years I have thoroughly and unfailingly serviced the booming communities of South King County helping make people’s dreams come true. My competent partner/husband and I work out of our prominent location across the street from the new Burien City Hall and we are available to make your real estate dreams come true.

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  5. Michelle says:

    My only question would be if we as taxpayers are funding any maintenance, repair, etc on the lake. If it is indeed part of the community and they, with their own dollars, pay all costs associated with the lake, then it is indeed private. If there are any taxpayer dollars being used then it is public.

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    • Maxine says:

      It is my understanding that the actual lake itself is owned by the State of WA, like most lakes in our state, and therefore it is owned by the taxpayers and that is one of the complaints people have about not having public access. What I’ve been told is that the waterfront private property owners just own up to water’s edge, not the lake itself.
      It appears that there are tax dollars involved, such as monitoring the health of the lake

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      • Connie Tacy says:

        Lake Burien is not owned by the taxpayers and has not had public access since approximately 1870. Many lakes in Washington, particularly the smaller ones, are privately owned. There are several small lakes in Pierce county, where I live, which are also private, though I do not live on any of them. If you go to the King County lakes link above, you’ll find that the monitoring of Lake Burien has been done by volunteers.

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    • Michelle,

      Yes, the lake is indeed private. At the present time tax payers are not funding any maintenance, repair, etc on the lake. The lake owners do all of the work to maintain the lake. If there was public access all of the citizens would have to pay to maintain the lake.

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  6. Abdul Alhazred says:

    The question I have is would the public benefit from public access to Lake Burien? I believe it is in the public interest and is supported by public policy.

    Per King County, the presence of fish is unknown. If there were fish, or if fish could be stocked for anglers, then the Department of Fish & Wildlife might acquire and develop public access and a public boat launch, perhaps restricted to electric motors.

    The city of Burien does not want to touch property lakefront property purchase with a ten-foot pole, perhaps understandably given the cost. The public might also buy responsibility for fixing potential future problems, such as declining water quality. However, the city manager and parks director could do a much better job explaining their reasoning and capital priorities. Is gaining access to Lake Burien not supported by municipal policy direction?

    The closest public right of way to view the lake appeared to be at the corner of SW 156th St & 12th Ave SW – this is not a legal access to the lake shoreline. There is a small, undeveloped (fenced?) parcel at the intersection that may be suitable for eventual public shoreline access, given a willing seller & buyer, or eminent domain condemnation.

    According to King County records (parcel 1923049054, ), the lake’s outfall appears as an open drainage channel crossing the Ruth Dykeman Children Center, west side of 10th Ave SW approximately SW 153rd. If this open channel were a riparian corridor connected to a public right of way, then I believe that western water law allows public access provided you stay in the channel. I’m not a lawyer – consult someone competent in riparian law in Washington. However, legal is not necessarily practical – access is very difficult if the stream course is piped, or if someone toting a shotgun disputes your crossing.

    The city could require a public access easement to the shoreline as a condition of approving rezoning or construction permits for the Children’s Center. I haven’t researched that, and I’m certain someone else has. At the minimum, it is in the public interest to ensure the outfall channel & structure is maintained (either by private or public entities), to keep the lake level from rising and damaging private improvements.

    King County quarter-section maps showing private property & public rights of way:

    City of Burien stormwater map index (see page 957)

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  7. Andrew says:

    I think it would be cool if there were at least a boat launch, if not a full sized park. The exposed lake front area at 12th Ave SW and 156th St is suffiecient for a boat launch. If people are concerned with the noise, or incivility, or damage to the water quality, this would seem to be a happy compromise.

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