Apr

23

It’s common knowledge that major bodies of water are public property. This was established long ago so that no one person could monopolize crucial water sources. What happens though, when a public lake is completely surrounded by private property? That’s exactly the topic of debate for homeowners and public residents who want access to Lake Burien.

Lake Burien, which is a 44-acre lake in King County, Washington located at the old town center of Burien, is entirely surrounded by private waterfront property owners, creating a serene oasis for them to enjoy. Because their homes surround the lake, they have exclusive access compared to the rest of the town. However, since the lake is considered a public resource, this exclusive access has been a point of contention for a now.

Every now and then, public residents who don’t own the waterfront real estate in Burien request that public access to the lake be created. However, the private owners are concerned about what this could do to the environment. To research the matter, several lakeside property owners hired a team of environmental consultants who did in fact conclude that public access to the lake would “entail significant risk of degradation” and that opening up public access would be “ill-advised.” Some of the reasoning behind this is that the lake is too shallow for increased use. At only 29 feet at its deepest and an average depth of just 13 feet, a large increase in boat, pet, and human traffic would definitely have a big impact on the ecosystem of the lake. Of course, while homeowners understand why the public wants access, the idea of destroying an ecosystem and losing their peace and quiet has caused some concern. Their hope is that the environmental recommendation would prevent any potentially-damaging public access even if lakefront property were to be transitioned into a park.

The Burien waterfront home owners say it’s fine for people to want to come and look at the lake, but it’s the access to the water itself that could be detrimental. In other words, they want to keep boats and other water-born activities limited to the few home owners. This is in an attempt to save its environmental state, since increased access to thousands of people could “irreversibly damage” the lake.

The public has also raised some valid points though, saying opening up a park and perhaps some city-owned lots could bring revenue to the town. A proposal to rezone the area was suggested. There is also a children’s center nearby that had hopes of buying and selling adjacent lake lots in order to improve their own financial situation. These ideas have not yet been approved though.

Obviously, this kind of private control of such a tranquil body of water greatly improves home values in the area, and waterfront land owners of Burien are guaranteed to enjoy peace, quiet, and a beautiful view as well as some very exclusive lakeside access. With approximately 48,000 people residing in the city though, the odds of buying one of these homes to take advantage of those benefits are not great. It is possible that an agreement could be created in the near future. Such a compromise would need to take into account the environmental integrity of the lake as well as the overall good of the community.

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