Help Us Protect The Right To Walk The Shorelines Of Guemes Island


Dear Guemes Island Community

Part of our island culture and legacy has been peaceful, contemplative walks on our tide flats and beaches. Consider all the pictures you’ve taken on our shorelines over the generations: the 4th of July afternoons spent with grandkids and neighbors, the early summer mornings beach walking while admiring Mt. Baker, bald eagles and herons.

In recent months, accessibility to shorelines has been challenged by a new property owner who uses constant-running security cameras to record walkers transiting his tidelands. Recently, criminal trespass charges were filed against a neighbor walking West Beach across his tidelands on a minus 2.8-foot tide.

As a result, several islanders have organized a Guemes-based nonprofit, Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines, to protect the public right to walk our beautiful island beaches and tidelands. Washington state is the only Pacific state that does not explicitly protect the right of citizens to walk beaches below the ordinary high-water mark. Public egress below the Ordinary High-Water Mark is a gray area in our State law (See this legal discussion and summary commissioned by the Department of Ecology. See also this related Attorney General’s opinion). Our organization’s goal is to clearly obtain confirmation of the public’s right to walk below the Ordinary High-Water Mark. Left unchallenged, we fear this situation could lead to privatizing much of our island’s shorelines.

Forest dwellers, imagine those days you’re eager to leave the beauty of your surroundings to walk the beach, enjoy a low tide, or see the sunset, only to be prohibited from this traditional activity. Waterfront homeowners, imagine walking out your front door to the beach and not being able to walk right or left.

We are advocating for the right of simple beach walking which will allow us to enjoy the extraordinary environment in which we live. Preserving the ability to walk our shorelines to experience the beauty and serenity of this area, while respecting the rights of property owners, is critical to our island.

Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines has retained an attorney specializing in public interest, shoreline access, and the public trust doctrine. The attorney will work on our behalf to file a civil action in Skagit County to apply the force of law to ensure the right of simple public transit across tidelands. Our first initiative is to raise $12,000, which we anticipate will be the cost to file this civil action and progress to the summary judgment stage.

Please consider making a donation to support this effort to preserve an island legacy for future generations. Feel free to forward this letter and message to anyone who may want to join in supporting this cause. Your generous contribution of any amount is welcome at:

Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines
5162 West Shore Road
Guemes Island
Anacortes, WA 98221

Donate Online

Thank you for supporting our efforts,

Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines

FOGIS Mission: To protect the public’s right to walk on the shorelines of Guemes Island