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October 23, 2017

9/27/2017 12:38:00 PM
Editorial - Frustration, conflict, crisis, opportunity
Ken Stern

The property lines are clearly drawn at and beyond the northern corner of Pearle Jensen Way: Every inch is privately owned. There is no public access. That is, there is no right-of-way owned by the Town or any other government entity. The path, worn by use and believed by custom, is on private property.
Is it game over for dog walkers, bird watchers and the rest of us? That depends. As Bill Reynolds’ thoughtfully pursued, multiple-sides-asked article points out, folks seem ready for a lull, if not truce. Do we let, ahem, sleeping dogs lie?
This is a nation of lawyers for a reason. Contracts, or covenants, make relationships as well as law. Conflicts do not have to stay adversarial. Resolutions are possible. Since we can act locally, can we do the hard work of creating an example of peaceful resolution and co-existence?
Patience and perseverance will be needed, in spades. Vision too. Decades ago the Arizona Republic heralded “where there is no vision, the people perish” from Proverbs daily on its editorial page. Developing a common vision is key.
This dike is privately owned. There is no dike district. But there are land trusts: Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and Skagit Land Trust have relationships with properties within walking (well, biking) distance of La Conner. What role might these organizations play? Let’s ask them.
There is the example of the Padilla Bay trail, managed by Skagit County Parks and Recreation Department on a dike in Dike District 12. Over a two-year period, Skagit County Parks and Recreation Department and the Washington Department of Ecology developed an agreement, created a plan and found funding. Granted, there were federal lands and the then existing Dike District 8, so that success is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
To write, or believe, that this starts with or depends on Swanson family members is too simple and unfair. The dike is a huge structure and long-term expense. As Bill Reynolds so well put it, all of us must address the “difficult balancing act between private property ownership, maintenance costs, and liability concerns on the one hand and safe public access to scenic pastoral and shoreline venues on the other.”
Gordy Bell has championed that “people look for common ground.” His is a vision of “investing in a holistic approach to our children’s’ future.”
This paper will sign up for that investment. The only space it owns is in these pages. It offers them for dialogue, visions, planning, and collaborative efforts.
The future is at stake. That is the place all of us, and as Gordy points out, our children especially, will live.
Best that we show them thoughtful, creative, cooperative examples.
How about if we make this a grownups STEM project?
What is the next productive step?

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