SUQUAMISH — A nonprofit organization is reportedly making progress in improving a beach access path located on county property at the end of James Street in Suquamish.
“From what I’ve seen, they’re bringing in a lot of neighborhood people,” Kitsap County transportation planner David Forte said. “They’re putting a lot of effort into it.”
In March, Kitsap County Public Works, following up on complaints from an adjacent homeowner, closed and fenced off the informal foot path, saying it was too steep and showed signs of non-permitted improvements. According to neighbors, local residents had been using the road end to get to the beach for 40 years.
On April 18, in response to community complaints and an article in the Herald, Public Works officials met with members of the Suquamish Citizens Advisory Committee and concerned residents at the path to discuss possible options for reopening the trail. Then, at the May 5 meeting of the SCAC, Forte and other county officials presented the county’s requirements for reopening the path.
Foremost was the requirement that a nonprofit organization assume responsibility for the trail, relieving the county of liability. SCAC could no longer be responsible for the path as it is an agency of county government. The new organization would be responsible for creating a plan that addressed relieving the steeper portions of the trail, getting a Category 5 permit, reconstructing the trail, being responsible for its upkeep, and assuring users respected the rights of adjacent homeowners.
“We managed to find a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to sponsor the trail,” SCAC member Will McDonald said. “It’s a religious and cultural organization called Hawk’s Hearth, based in Olympia.”
The trail was reopened in June.
According to Forte, the county has received a draft of a Category 5 permit, and expects the group to submit a formal proposal in another week or two. The final plan will address solutions to the steeper portions of the trail and take into account a stormwater pipe on the south side of the easement and a homeowner’s sewer easement on the north side on the public property.
County surveyors have marked the center line of the 40-foot-wide easement; the nonprofit volunteers can measure out 20 feet from both sides of that to see how far they can go. Forte expects them to “try to stay on the south side where feasible on the trail, because it provides better topography.”
Forte understands the group plans to apply for a grant from the Suquamish Tribe to help cover the costs of materials.
“I did walk down to the James Street Road end,” SCAC president Tom Curley said.
“I walked down to the bottom, then south along the beach to the Charles R. Lawrence Memorial Boat Ramp at the House of Awakened Culture, and marveled at what a nice walk that is. And how important that particular beach access is, since there is no other public access between those two points, or from the north for an equal distance.”