LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lake Burien – Public Or Private?

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Lake Burien is a public lake currently serving as a private playground for a privileged few who live on the lake. At the last Burien City Council meeting the council made sure that party boats for the residents would not be restricted, but decided that the nonresident public would be banned from even launching a canoe onto the lake. The anti-access residents show up at every council meeting and flood the council with input. No one is speaking for the public. However, might does not make right and repetition does not make fact of fantasy. There is no rational reason to restrict public access. The Shoreline Master Program submitted by the Citizen Advisory Council and approved by the Planning Commission is being changed to restrict public access. The public needs to speak up and encourage the council to protect the rights of the public.

The concern for the lake is invasive species. This is a serious threat to Lake Burien, but the source is very unlikely to be from the public hand launching a vessel in a walk-in park. Typically, hand launch craft are stored for substantial lengths of time and occasionally taken to a body of water, used and taken home. If they transport an invasive species at all, it would be from the body of water to the home. There are two other sources that are much more likely. One is contaminated vessels brought home by lakeside residents from use elsewhere. The other is contaminated vessels that travel through or are parked in the watershed of Lake Burien and contaminate the lake via the storm drain system. This is how ditches and ponds that no one accesses get contaminated and is probably the major risk factor. If a boating restriction is necessary to protect the lake, it is senseless unless it applies to all craft.

A recent letter in the Highline Times and B-Town Blog (read it here) tells of the horrors of public access and lists the litter, drug paraphernalia, abuse and dangers of the public access at Arbor Lake as an example. That article has now been referred to as fact in some of the debate on Lake Burien Public Access. I urge everyone to go to Arbor Lake and see the truth personally. On a couple recent visits immediately after a weekend of the claimed crime and abuse I found a clean, pleasant park with no sign of the problems cited in the article. However, by comparing the two lakes, if you can get near Lake Burien to do so, here is what you will find:

  • The Arbor Lake shoreline, which is mostly public access, is heavily wooded with woody debris in the water and abundant natural shade. This keeps the temperature down, the dissolved oxygen content up and provides excellent habitat for wildlife. Lake Burien has open shoreline, sandy beaches and bulkheads so the water is warmer and makes a cleaner playground.
  • The Arbor Lake shoreline is typically decaying vegetation, also known as muck, and plant life. This is where the food chain for wildlife starts. Lake Burien has beaches of imported sand and most native vegetation has been removed. Swimmers won’t get tangled in the rushes and lily pads.
  • Arbor Lake has fallen trees reaching out from shore and providing cover and habitat for wildlife. Lake Burien has private docks and swimming floats reaching out from shore for personal recreational use.
  • Arbor Lake has abundant vegetation along the shoreline providing habitat for wild life. Lake Burien has nice, green, weed-free lawns gently sloping toward the lake.

Like other natural lakes in western Washington with no natural flow, Arbor Lake probably has little in the way of a significant fish population, although it may have trout planted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Lake Burien has lake trout, largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie and perch, according to a study funded by the anti-access interests. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, all of these species have been deliberately and illegally introduced into the lake. No permit to plant fish in Lake Burien has ever been issued. It seems that this public lake is also a private fishing preserve. No wonder some of the residents are fighting so hard to keep the public out.

There are several effective things that could be done to protect Lake Burien from some very real threats, but restricting public access is not one of them. Let the City Council know how you feel.

Lee Moyer
Shoreline Master Program Advisory Committee member

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16 Responses to “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lake Burien – Public Or Private?”
  1. Bobby Lynn says:

    It is apparent that this author has his agenda front and center in regards to lake Burien. I do not live on the lake or anywhere near it but know several who do and they all seem to be good stewards of the lake. There are always two sides to every story but in this article we only are hearing one very biased story.

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    • Please keep in mind Bobby that this is not an “article” – it is a Letter to the Editor.

      Bias is expected in these things (as well as Comments, etc.), and we welcome all voices.


    • Lee Moyer says:

      Yes, it should be obvious that my front and center agenda is that the public has a right to use the public resources.
      Read the two letters on Arbor Lake and visit the lake. Biases will be clear.

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      • Steve says:

        Why open something that doesn’t need opening? What possible good could come of opening the lake? A small beach where a few people could dip their feet? Where are you going to swim to? A canoe trip around a 1/2 mile lake? Boring. No gas motors? So then what? Is the city going to hire a life guard? No? Who’s watching at night? No one? (living in Burien, it seems the police have enough to deal with)

        Seriously… it’s a giant pond. There are so many better bodies of water out there, why piss off the people who live there and intrude on their back yard (because where is the boundary??) when you could simply go to any number of other better places to swim???

        Last I checked, there was a school for troubled teens at one end of the lake… now we’re opening that up to anyone who has a canoe?

        Fishing? Did anyone ever consider there’s a reason there are fish in the lake to begin with? Because it hasn’t been fished out! Open it up and unless the residents keep stocking it, I wager a year or two tops before all the fish all hauled off by anglers.

        This whole debate is stupid. Burien has way bigger issues (hey town center anyone?) before they worry about opening up lake access.

        If you really want to get onto the lake, befriend someone who lives there. I know several people who live on the lake and they’ve always said “come over anytime and swim”. I never felt the need to. Honestly, there’s just better places to go.

        Hey “Letter to the editor” author…. try being more personable… You could probably ask any number of people who live there to use their backyard for a day and they wouldn’t care.

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  2. Jack says:

    I do not live on or ajoining either lake, but find this discussion of using dinky little Lake Burien tiresome. I drive to Lake Washington when I want to spend time at a lake. It is huge and clean., with many parks.

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    • Mary says:

      I agree with both Bobby and Jack it is tiresome. Lee sounds like he did not get his way (as a member of the SMP advisory commiittee) and is using a sour grapes approach. I do not live on or near the lake and am sick of all the time and money spent on this very small part of our community. Get over it – move on!

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  3. Elizabeth says:

    Lee – I see that you have done some homework but not enough.

    I am not sure how many of the “privileged few” living on Lake Burien you actually know. There are senior citizens whose families have lived on the lake longer than any of us have been around or even interested in the “value” of Lake Burien. Some are hard working, absolute middle class families who have saved their dollars, purchased fixer-uppers and worked hours every week to improve the home. There are retired state and county employees, school teachers and people who work in grocery stores.

    Why these people are important is that when they purchased their homes, whether large or small, rundown or cared for, the deed and title include substantial parts of the waterfront. Yes, they bought it and paid taxes on it, just like everyone who owns a home with any property under it. It is no more right to suggest that Burien should open up their own property to the public any more that we should be able to parade around on your lawn or anyone else’s when wanted. If you have a nice shaded area in the back of your house that is really inviting in the heat of the summer, are you going to let anyone who feels the heat come and share that with you?

    Further, you obviously do not know much about Lake Burien if you feel that citizens can acquire something superior to ANgle Lake, as you cite. Lake Burien is just like many natural lakes with naturally rotting muck at the bottom, plant life growing to the surface, lily pads and rushes to tangle swimmers feet, just like everywhere else. This is not some artificially sanitized plaground. Oh, yes, “native vegetation” has been removed by the residents – as required by King County, year after year, they remove the noxious weeds pervasive in the area which can choke waterways.

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  4. Lee Moyer says:

    I agree with your description of the people living around the lake. Most of the abuses of the lake were done long ago when no one cared or knew any better. However, the anti-access interests have been using Arbor Lake as the horrid example of what happens if the public gets access to a lake and how well the lake is protected when it is available only to those who live on the lake. My point is that the facts show otherwise.
    The residents around the lake own their property like I own my own back yard. No one has a right to trespass without permission. A paddler going by their yard in a kayak is like a person walking down the sidewalk in front of my house. Both have a right to do so because it is a public right of way. How is it different whether that paddler launched from a public access site or a nearby yard?
    I agree that a swimming beach would probably be inappropriate. However, there is no reason a nearby resident who does not live on the lake shouldn’t be able to take his small raft down to the lake on a hot day and use it to cool off, if there is a public access site.
    Noxious weeds are invasives. The county has never required native vegetation to be removed. The whole point is to protect native vegetation.

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  5. Maxine says:

    I don’t understand what the big deal is, either. Just because the lake is public property doesn’t mean that the public owns it or anything. What are they going to want next, access to our roads and sidewalks, then Lake Washington, then Puget Sound, then Mount Rainier? Where does it end? Why not let the shoreline homeowners enjoy the publicly-owned resource in peace and quiet with their party boats and illegally stocked non-native fish for their own private benefit? It’s the American way, just like the Wall Street banks. Deal with it and quit your whining.

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    • Robin says:

      Maxine – you are exactly right!! Giving a lake to a hundred or so people, that’s one heck of a government handout! Where can I get mine??

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  6. Robin says:

    Elizabeth and other outspoken Lake Burien residents,

    It seems YOU are the one who needs to do her homework. A simple view of the King County Parcel Map will show you that you and other Lake Burien residents own property touching the lake, but NOT THE LAKE ITSELF. As I’ve said in previous posts, I had a lot more sympathy for you until I read the posts on this blog and the letters written to the City Council. You all really think you own the lake, don’t you? Hire a surveyor if you need to, but know that YOU OWN A FINITE PIECE OF PROPERTY. Your property rights end at that line.

    My property touches the Puget Sound. Heck, I even have rights to the tidelands. By your logic, then, I own the Puget Sound. Don’t even think about “parading around” on public property that touches my private property! No Way! Own a boat? Want to cruise it up to Alki? Forget it! Remember that I own the Puget Sound because my property touches it. How dare you! (scowl)

    The next time you visit a park or any other public space, please remember that you ARE “The Public” that you seem to loathe so much.

    As I’ve said before, I’m sure many decent, hardworking people live on Lake Burien. Unfortunately, the image presented by the outspoken ones is not a good one; trying to usurp the public’s right to a public area under the guise of environmentalism while simultaneously asserting their “right” to keep green lawns that touch the water’s edge and install as many floats and docks as they please.

    Essentially, “I’m going to keep this really neat toy all to myself because all the other kids will break it. Never mind that it wasn’t mine to start with.”

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  7. Rob says:

    This is the last time I am saying this- I have lived here since 1962, when I was 2. I have never seen this lake “burien”. I think it is a fictional place.
    And one more piece of nonsense- lake burien park. Needs to have it’s name changed. I realize it is name after the school that was once there, but really if you ain’t going to let people in this Lake Burien, you shouldn’t have a public park with that name

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  8. Eaton B. Verz says:

    Just another example of our fine civic leaders catering to those with the $$$$. If that lake was on the east side of Ambaum this would’t even be an issue.

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  9. Thom Grey says:

    Duh, Lee,
    I went back and actually re-read the letter an comments about Arbor Lake. So
    all those people who live around Arbor Lake were lying about their problems and concerns just to keep you from getting to use Lake Burien. Man, it is not quite clear who you are-like a scientist who thinks the other scientists are lying about how invasive species get into lakes and the water quality at Arbor Lake just to keep you out of Lake Burien. Oh yah, the police are lying about crime around Arbor Lake just to keep you out of Lake Burien. I’ve been to Hicks lake and that water looks like chocolate poop poop water. There are signs all around that warn you to keep out of the water. Been to Arbor Lake too and seen all the trash around it many days a year. Lake Burien is a small shallow weedy lake with a muck bottom, been there too. Trying to keep from touching the muck and weeds and avoid 1000 other people to swim at a rink dink park while mud and muck and pond weeds and duck poop fill your shorts is not most guys idea of a good time on a hot day. No one wants to put their face in that crap. Dude you need to get a grip. I don’t think you really care about Lake Burien or how to keep lake Burien clean or how to clean up Arbor Lake or how to clean up and protect any lakes in Burien or even about the science of lakes. I don’t think Burien has any $ but if it does, the people in Burien deserve the Community Center and swimming pool the politicans promised like about 10 years ago and not a mucky, weedy lake that will end up costing millions of $. The City of Burien can’t even keep people from stealing the art work and signs off the City Hall walls or from peeing in the City Hall elevator–like inside the building. So they are going to be able to keep Lake Burien from being regularly trashed like happens at Arbor Lake and Hicks Lake? Duh dude,don’t think so!

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  10. John says:

    The lake is public property, yet we are denied access. The city should provide a small access park at the east end of the lake. It will make for a better and more livable city for everyone. Come on, City Council!

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  11. Dr. More says:

    It is amazing to me how the environment is being used as a red herring to distract from what the real issue is: These ‘environmentalist’ property owners want exclusivity because public access will reduce their property values! These property owners would be totally in favor of public access if it would double their property values. 🙂 Must be awful to have to sit through these Council meetings and have to listen to these ‘environmentalists’ want to ‘protect the Lake’ (their property values). I can’t blame them for their desire of keep the area private: Try Seahurst Park in the afternoon and on weekends…..drugs, shady characters, crime. Who wants that in their back yard?!

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