Water access is a public obligation
June 9, 2008 · Updated 4:01 PM
"Forty-five miles of shoreline. One public dock.That's the score on Bainbridge Island, for anyone who wants to maintain a small vessel but isn't blessed with the money to afford a waterfront home or a yacht club membership. (There are, by our count, two public ramps for motor launches and kayaks; but you can't really count Point White dock, which is more of a pier.) Certainly, the desirability of docks for recreation is as strong as ever, as evidenced by plans for several new structures across our waterways by private homeowners on Blakely Harbor. Yet when the notion of better public water access - which could mean anything, including a simple platform or float as well as a full-fledged dock - is raised at T'Chookwap Park, complaints rain down from some who live nearby.That's dismaying, as it's only been by virtue of a lack of funds (and perhaps commitment) by the city and park district that the park has been allowed to languish in disuse; improvement of this property should have been completed years ago. Frankly, park district officials should be ashamed of themselves for taking down the very sign that denotes the T'Chookwap parcel for public use - the district is charged with advocating and defending the public's interests, not hiding parkland from view to avoid complaints.Contrary to the views of some, the waters of Puget Sound and its various bays and inlets are held in the public trust, a resource for every Washington citizen to share and enjoy. By virtue of private ownership of most waterfront property and tidelands, the public is kept largely away. The city has made some progress by identifying and improving various road ends around the island, places where if nothing else, the average islander can take a stroll and contemplate the sparkling boundary that defines our island That's why the debate over T'Chookwap Park is a defining moment for the city and park district, in which they have the opportunity to affirm that a park purchased by a public agency, with public funds, warrants improvement for full use by that same public.The presence of a picnic table isn't going to attract riff-raff; a covered shelter isn't going to destroy anyone's view; a ramp or dock for use by kayakers isn't going to overtax a popular waterway. In fact, it'll swing the balance back in the right direction.City, park officials: You owe it to Bainbridge Islanders - all of them - to complete T'Chookwap Park.You can start by putting the sign back up. "