Councilmember Brian Bennett: Open “Limited Secure Access” To Lake Burien

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by Ralph Nichols

Burien’s “highest priority” in updating its Shoreline Master Program should be assessing “reaches of shoreline where there is no public access,” City Councilman Brian Bennett told The B-Town Blog in a recent interview.

But Bennett, who served on the Shoreline Advisory Committee before his election to the City Council last fall, stressed that this view is based solely on his work as a member of that committee.

He vowed as a councilman to listen fairly to the concerns of all shoreline property owners when the council reviews proposed revisions to the plan later this year. He added that private property rights should be protected in the final document.

“There are certain areas of shoreline in Burien without any public access,” Bennett noted. Yet “public policy at the state and federal levels [calls for] access to public waters.”

Burien has two reaches of shoreline along “public waters” as defined by state and federal laws – Puget Sound and Lake Burien. Seahurst Park affords access to Puget Sound, and there are also limited access points at Three Tree Point.

But there is no public access to Lake Burien, and “the lake is public property,” Bennett said. “It is owned by the city and the state.”

The question to him then becomes how to create public access to Lake Burien without impacting property owners around the lake.

“I would like the community to consider limited secure access" to Lake Burien – Brian Bennett.

“I would like the community to consider limited secure access, gated with secure buffers” to the lake, he continued. This access would not allow boats and would have only “limited parking to promote people walking.”

His preferred point of access would be on lakeside parcels adjacent to the Ruth Dykeman Center that center directors hope to sell. Bennett hopes the city will consider buying one or more of these last remaining lots on the lake.

“If they are built on, there will be no opportunity again in our lifetime to gain access to the lake. It’s important for us to consider this…”

“There are kids just a couple blocks away wondering, ‘Why don’t we get to play on the lake?’” Bennett said. “It concerns me that this is a debate about us against them. It’s important that as a community we all be together helping each other out.”

He recalled that Lake Burien is considered the birthplace of Burien, and is just a block from SW 152nd Street – the city’s “main street” – making it a natural link to the downtown business district.

Bennett also said he has “heard from a lot of people” about this issue and understands their concerns. Any access to Lake Burien would have to protect the shoreline environment as well as the privacy and property of lakeside residents, he declared.

(Photo of Brian Bennett by Joe Mabel)

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19 Responses to “Councilmember Brian Bennett: Open “Limited Secure Access” To Lake Burien”
  1. TcB says:

    Who would keep people from taking boats on the lake from the public points? Trash floating in the water will soon follow, dumping, etc. The Lake doesn’t exactly get a big inflow of fresh water or have many points where water can leave. Once polluted, you’re stuck. Nobody has mentioned this yet.

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  2. Beachcomber says:

    Is the Council representing resident’s desire for access in a prioritized way? Is Lake Burien really the shoreline access that is in greatest demand? I would hope that the Council is focusing there efforts to gain access where it is most desired by the greatest number of residents.

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  3. Jim Branson says:

    In what sense would access be gated or limited? The current standard in Burien parks is that people go into parks after closing, ignoring the locked gate and the signage. If you call the police, the response time for a trespassing call is about one to two hours because the police have other priorities. Every morning, there are beer cans on the ground in Burien’s parks. If the rules and closing time were enforced, if dogs and boats were kept out of the water, then public access could be a good thing, but that would require some enforcement officer, and you would have to have the same standard of enforcement at all Burien parks.

    There are many public lands and lakes without public access, for good reason. The Cedar River Watershed, for example, is where we get our drinking water, and the public is excluded because it is simply easier to keep people out than it is to police them. It may be that keeping the public out of Lake Burien is in the public’s best interests.

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    • Carol DeVos says:

      Everyone should be able to enjoy Lake Burien. A small public access would be a benifit to the responsible citizens in the Burien community. It is to bad that when the area was being developed that the community did not provide for the future generations by leaving some of the lake shore public access.

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      • Jim Branson says:

        Ms. Devos, do you believe that, if the public had access to Lake Burien, there would be “No net loss of ecological function or processes” as mandated by the SMP? Currently, at Burien’s other shoreline access points, people regularly walk their dogs off-leash without cleaning up after them. They leave garbage, vandalism, and graffiti. They build illegal fires, and there have even been a couple of meth labs. If you call 911 to report someone littering, they will just laugh at you. So far, the taxpayers seem unwilling to discuss the possibility of hiring a Park Ranger, even though it would pay dividends in the long run. How do you propose that the public would enjoy access to Lake Burien without any ecological impact?

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        • Pleides says:

          OMG!! “If you call 911 to report someone littering, they will just laugh at you.” Wha?!?

          Uhh, yeah. Maybe while you’re at it, let them know your hamburger didn’t get pickles like in the photo in the drive-through.

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        • Kim Otto says:

          The greater ecological destruction occurs with home owners over fertilizing their lawns and destroying wetlands. I live on little Arbor Lake and feel the public does benefit from the public access. If the home owners are so concerned why don’t they organize a community group to help enforce the rules of any park as a neighborhood watch group would do? I only hear that they feel they own the lake and no one else should enjoy it. Let’s try to see a greater future for the people of Burien and lake access for all ;not just the lucky few who can afford lake front property.

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          • Jim Branson says:

            Kim Otto, Arbor Lake would be a great opportunity to show that public access and environmental protection can work hand in hand. I’ve been to the lake and seen the beer cans and bottles sunk into the mud at the shoreline. I’ve seen where the dog feet churn the mud and trample the native vegetation. Arbor Lake has acres of lawn where it could have natural vegetation to slow and filter the storm water. Does anything live in Arbor Lake besides algae and slime? If the public wants access to Lake Burien, they could demonstrate responsible stewardship of Arbor Lake first.

            When you and your neighborhood watch group have turned things around so that high school kids aren’t buying and selling drugs at Arbor Lake at 1 AM, when the lake is healthy and the trash is gone, when the lawn is reduced and the invasive weeds are gone–then you can hold up Arbor Lake as an example of how public access and environmental preservation are not mutually exclusive. Only then should the public be clamoring for access to Lake Burien.

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          • jimmy says:

            yeah there is a lot fish that live in arbor lake the bass perch trout catfish frogs turtles its a nice lake it just theres a bunch of dumbasses that go downthere and drink and liter and spray paint and the cops berly ever get there in time to stop them but lately the cops have been around more from what i have read they got the bum from living there anymore and they are working on cleaning it up down there it can be a nice lake it just needs a little help and hopfully the cops will in getting rid of these thugs that are cusing all these problems in this area like over last summer you chouldent go to the corner store on 128th 1st the old circle k with out getting bugged by big somens spare changing but they seem to be gone but will see when the weather gets better they will probly be out there agine i think its time that the peole in this area stand up and get these guys the hell out of here i have lived here most of my life i like it here

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  4. Native Naturalist says:

    Public access should be granted for a nude beach on Lake Burien. It is our right!

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  5. napavine says:

    Naturalist, you better be careful what you ask for. There is alot of ugly people in this world, that you don’t want to see naked. Myself included.

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  6. Ralph Nichols says:


    Brian Bennett spoke with me this afternoon (Feb. 24) to point out, quite correctly, that in conveying his major focus – the city’s “highest priority” – I had left a few words out of my story. This inadvertant omission on my part distorts his position.

    What Bennett said, in complete context, and repeated during our conversation, about the city’s “highest priority”, is this:

    “If the city acquires property for public access to a shoreline, the highest priority should be reaches of shoreline where there is currently no public access.”

    In addition, he and I agreed that clarification is needed on his statement about who owns Lake Burien. The lake is owned by the State of Washington – not by both the city and state, as previously stated.

    I hope these clarifications set the record straight.

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  7. stacy colombel says:

    It’s about time someone started the process of allowing some publc access to Lake Burien. It is a priority to me and I am a Burien citizen. It would be lovely to be able to be by a lake in the summer with picnic tables. ( and garbage cans will be put there. )
    It’s a great location and does not BELONG to the exclusive use of those living by it.

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  8. Julie D says:

    Stacey, ths shore aroud the lake is private property. It does belong to the people who have title to the land around the lake.

    Let say for a second that you own a home, maybe you do. And now lets say it’s someone’s priority to have a picnic, a party or a little romp in your back yard. Makes you want to shell out for that morgtage, does it? Not that you would do this but think for a second about if your visitiors decide not to pick up thier garbage, use drugs in front of your children, threaten you or harm the natural ecosystems (plants, animals or habitats) . I don’t live on Lake Burien, but I do live on the water and each of those things has happend to me.

    Of course if you would like to picinic on Lake Burien, one way to do it is to make it yours, one or two houses comes up for sale a year there. (Maybe then you would think differently about a public park.)

    Until then, Seahurst beach is quite lovely with beautiful new picnic faciities. Something in our city should take a great deal of pride in and have a wonderful waterfront experience.

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    • Jack says:

      Maybe if there was a really good pool in Burien, with a picnic area adjacent to it, we would not all be yearning to be in a tiny lake which might give us swimmer’s itch.

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    • Lee Moyer says:

      You own your back yard and someone using it is trespassing. You do not own the street in front of your house, it is public right of way. So is the surface of Lake Burien and Puget Sound. If you choose to have a nice yard that extends to the water’s edge, it is the same as having a nice yard that extends to a public sidewalk. The public has a right to the use of the right of way, and thereare laws that govern the users conduct on these rights of way but they do not include private property and trespassing laws.
      Lee Moyer

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      • Robbie Howell says:

        Stacy did you know that mothers change their babies diapers on picnic tables? They leave urine and E Coli on the table? How will you know if it is safe to eat there? Did you know that many people do not use the garbage cans that are put in place for them?
        Just look at SW 152nd between 4th and 6th avenue on the south side of the street. There are very nice disposal cans on that strip but people throw their cigaret butts and trash all over the sidewalk instead of using them. And there are people that would not think that there is anything wrong with throwing baby diapers filled with poop into the lake. Not everyone is well behaved as you are. ROI

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  9. Robin says:

    I understand both sides in this story, but I have to agree with Lee Moyer. If something is public, it’s public. If people owned property adjacent to the Grand Canyon, could they prevent all of us from enjoying it? And while I wholeheartedly agree with Julie D that the general public is good and bad, I have to say that the entire lake is not her backyard. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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  10. Coverofnight says:

    To Jim Branson I say, “Right on! I’m behind you 100%!” To Pleides – well, if I complain about my order being wrong (which it FREQUENTLY is), then I’m racist; so instead I politely ask them to correct their mistake but still have to tolerate their nasty glares and bad attitude. To Native Naturalist I say, “I hope you run for Mayor…..I like the way you think!” To all others – while there are some good arguments on both sides, the Lake and the community have been just fine for decades with the current access situation. The Shoreline Master Program is another example of lawyers and government creating blanket legislation without the ability for reasonable modification at the local level. This is a mindset that has taken hold at all levels of government. Mr. Bennett seems to be another cog in that massive government machinery that churns out regulation after regulation to further limit individual rights – the individuals in this case being the lakefront property owners. If he has no backbone on this issue, I’ll certainly be looking to support his opposition in the next election. We all know that once access and a public space are granted/created, there will be no enforcement of rules and laws and only token monitoring by authorities. And as any government employee knows, once government creates something, it is virtually impossible to eliminate it or change it back. This “issue” needs to become a non-issue…..leave the Lake alone. Patriots, stand up and fight for individual property rights – even if you don’t own lakefront property! Because YOUR property is next for restrictive legislation (think energy use, zoning, building, extended family occupancy, home businesses, etc.).

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