Our Lawsuit -- What It Is And Isn't About

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A lawsuit is being brought by Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines on behalf of its members, itself, and the public to protect the right to walk along the Guemes Island shorelines. As Plaintiff, Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines seeks an order holding that the doctrine of customary use protects the right to walk below the ordinary high water mark of second class tidelands at Clark Point. Additionally, or in the alternative, the right to walk below the ordinary high water mark of the second class tidelands is secured by the public trust doctrine."

Read the full Legal Filing.

Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines (FOGIS) is a non-profit organization created to preserve the right to respectfully walk the beautiful shoreline of Guemes Island. FOGIS was created in 2020 when this right became challenged, sometimes confrontationally and physically, by one shoreline owner in particular accosting people seeking the enjoyment of quiet walks along the beach.

For as long as people have lived in this part of the world, the shorelines have been a central part of the shared community experience. Over the past 130+ years, Washington State law has not been clear on the rights of the public to enjoy the shorelines and their relationship to privately owned tidelands and the courts have never definitively ruled on this matter. During the past 1 ½ years, several long-term island residents have been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe doing what they have done for decades – enjoying respectful, peaceful strolls along the tidelands of Guemes Island.  FOGIS organized itself to address this issue, and to work to ensure that walking on our region’s pristine tidelands below the ordinary high-water line, without walking on uplands, remains accessible to everyone.

Guemes Island is special and FOGIS believes preserving the uniqueness of our island community and the means to walk the beach below the high-water mark is imperative for our present and future. Below are some highlights of our mission and what we DO and DO NOT support:

·         *  FOGIS respects property rights and supports accessing the beach only through designated public locations or with an upland owner’s permission.

·         *  FOGIS does not support loitering, social gatherings (e.g., picnicking, beach sports activities, sunbathing, beach fires, etc.) on private tidelands property unless it is with the upland owner’s permission.

·        *   FOGIS does not support or condone transiting privately owned tidelands by means other than on foot, such as motorized vehicles (ATVs, gas or electric powered bikes, motorbikes, etc.) and bicycles.

·        *   FOGIS does not support the public’s use of upland property, defined as above the ordinary high-water mark, unless with the permission of the owner or for an authentic emergency.

 *  The civil suit filed by FOGIS is focused on shorelines specific to the actions prompted by one property owner who is denying the right to peacefully transit the tidelands of his property below the high-water mark.

*  There are ten (10) designated public accesss points on Guemes Island as outlined in the County Shoreline Master Plan.  This map is posted on our website.

We encourage support through membership and donations to help us continue our efforts to preserve the right to respectfully walk Guemes Island’s shoreline. Please visit our website at http://friendsofguemesislandshorelines.com/ to donate and join, or write a simple statement of support to friendsofguemesislandshoreline@gmail.com (note – “shoreline” in email address is singular). You can also make a donation through our Venmo account @fogis-guemes-1 or by mail to FOGIS at 5162 West Shore Rd, Anacortes 98221.

Your support is what will help keep the shorelines of Guemes open and accessible to all. Should you have any questions, please reach out to Peter Knutson or Bud Ullman, or through our general email address above.

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