LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lake Burien – Public Or Private?
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.
Shoreline Master Program Advisory Committee member
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