I've sent a letter like this one to the Bainbridge Review (the island's paper).
A few days ago, my husband and I were taking an evening walk, as we try to do each day. We drove to one of our favorite spots, near Lynwood Center, parked our car and began to walk and chat.
Near the entrance to Fort Ward, we encountered a road block, caused by a fallen tree. The fire department and the power company were engaged in clearing the mess from the power lines, so we took a detour via a clearly-marked road-end beach access, of which there are many, marked by signs, on the Island. As we walked, we met a number of other people who were doing the same thing because of the road block. We continued on the beach until we reached the boat ramp at Fort Ward, at which time we resumed our walk on the road.
On our way back to our car, since the road was still blocked, we walked on the beach at dusk (by the same route), passing a woman who was tending a fire on her lawn (on, or adjacent to, the bulkhead). She called out to us, “Do you live here?” I answered that we did not, but were passing the road block on her street. “This is private property,” was the reply. “You’re trespassing.”
Dear Editor, my family has owned waterfront property on Bainbridge Island for nearly 60 years. Our family home is adjacent to a road-end. My husband and I also live on the water, and we know the law. We know about the mean low-tide line, about shellfish, about crab pots, licenses and trespassing. The tide was not low enough for us to walk at its mean low, so we were a bit higher on the beach. We were not in any way threatening this woman, defacing her property or imposing on her. We were simply using the only available means to get home safely.
In 1952, my newlywed parents rented a motorboat in Ballard for a day, and brought it across the Sound to Bainbridge Island. They pulled up on a beach, and were greeted by an older man - an immigrant from Iceland. They asked him whether he knew if the property was for sale. As it happens, it belonged to him, and he not only sold them a piece of his waterfront, he helped them to build the cabin that became my favorite place on earth.
He and his wife became important parent- and grandparent-figures in our lives.
Our neighborhood shared resources; friendship, kindness, hospitality and mentoring were freely exchanged. For years, there was only one telephone on the entire road, belonging to the Icelanders, and they shared it with all of us. There was coffee time for the women, fresh-baked goodies for children and cocktails and cribbage for the men.
We fortunate children of the neighborhood roamed freely about one another’s homes and gardens. It was idyllic. That is my vision of what Bainbridge Island is about. I have spent countless hours with my family on various beaches, and treasure the memory of those times.
I do not know what problems this woman was experiencing, but they were not caused by two walkers crossing in front of her property, at dusk on a clear evening. We have experienced similar unfriendliness and aggression from people on other beaches in the recent past. It breaks my heart. We have never treated beach-walkers in this fashion, even when they were “trespassing” on our beach - or even picnicking (without permission) on our dock!
If our dear Icelandic neighbor had treated my parents as this woman treated my husband and me, we might never have experienced three generations of happiness on Bainbridge Island. I hope that attitudes like hers do not foretell the ruin of Island spirit for future generations.