As of September 2nd, public access at the Beach Lake Property on Lower Elwha Tribal lands has been revoked. According to the Facebook post from the Coastal Watershed Institute, who are the land owners and property managers: “We are experiencing unprecedented and unsustainable public pressure on our shorelines along the north Olympic Peninsula, including at the Beach Lake Ecosystem Restoration site. For the safety of our community and the Beach Lake site, which is an important Elwha nearshore ecosystem restoration site *NOT A PARK*, the site is closed to all public use. Violators will be cited for trespass, and vehicles will be ticketed and towed. Do your part: Please spread the word, respect the community and CWI’s ongoing efforts to protect what matters, and make sure your actions contribute to sustaining these coastal areas.”
This is an unfortunate development that didn’t need to happen if people had simply followed guidelines and been more respectful by recreating responsibly. Recreating responsibly starts with knowing before you go, making a plan, and following rules/respecting closures, learn more at recreateresponsibly.org and more in the image below.
Coastal access along the Strait of Juan de Fuca is already constrained, and this will further challenge other areas with effort shift and potential for increased visitation. In the Salish Sea, beach access law is a complicated topic as highlighted in the recent blog post by Christopher Dunagan of the Puget Sound Institute. Learn more about beach access for Washington in general via the Surfrider Beachapedia State of The Beach Report for Washington.
The Olympic Peninsula Chapter has been making attempts to raise awareness about the challenges to coastal access on the Strait and promote responsible recreation over the past 2 years. They recently published a beach access and camping guide to the Olympic Peninsula in efforts to promote best practices and #PROTECTaccess. As Summer transitions towards Fall and the North Pacific swells begin to make their way up the Strait, this info and guidance will be key to preserving access for the enjoyment of all for years to come. Many beaches that you are welcome to explore are managed by the tribes, the county, and the state. However, access to some beaches that are privately owned are granted by the permission of the private landowners. These spots are unique in both their ecological offerings and the partnership between the stewards and the visitors to these places, THAT INCLUDES YOU.