A patch of trees and shrubs that leads to the beach on Day Island has turned into a small thicket of controversy in University Place. It started when some neighbors who live uphill from the water paid a tree-topper to trim trees that obstruct their Puget Sound views.
But the trees stand on city property, and the city cited the neighbors for the damage.
Now the neighbors and other Day Island residents are pushing the city to clear vegetation and make it easier to use one of the few public access points to the water.
Day Island is a small community at the west end of 27th Street West just across from the University Place mainland. It is a mix of newer upscale homes and others built on pilings that began as fishing shacks in the early 1900s.
Ernest Lackman, a retired hardware store owner who’s lived on the island for 15 years, is one of the neighbors complaining about the lack of a “safe way to get to the beach.”
He said the city doesn’t maintain the overgrown area, but it won’t let the neighbors touch it either.
“Would you like to bring your young child down here?” the 85-year-old asked while making his way through the thicket one day last week. “For them not to be able to use that access and waterfront, it’s ridiculous, really.”
Gary Cooper, UP’s assistant community development director, said the 30-foot-wide swath does provide sufficient access to the beach. “Sometimes when people don’t get the answers they want, they find alternate ways to get it,” he said.
In March, eight neighbors with obstructed views paid for 21 trees to be snipped. The homeowners, including Lackman, argued that they had previously trimmed trees in the area without penalty. “That’s just the way things were,” Lackman said of Day Island.
The city gave the neighbors two options: Pay a $13,700 fine or replant some trees. The group chose the latter.
As they’ve worked on the replanting plan, the neighbors say they’ve been reminded how difficult and dangerous it is to reach the beach.
They say a trail leading to the waterfront is too dangerous with thorn bushes and sharp rocks for steps.
Sharon Dempsey, another neighbor, wrote to the city in April that local boating icon Henry Foss once owned the homes north and south of the property, and he worked to ensure that Day Island residents had a path to reach the beach. Before the path was covered with vegetation, teachers used it to lead classroom field trips.
“The path has become a tactical course allowing only the agile to get to the beach,” wrote Dempsey, who’s lived on Day Island for 37 years.
City Attorney Janean Parker said neighbors proposed clearing the vegetation, but the city wouldn’t allow it because it doesn’t relate to the tree-topping.
“We have a trail that’s been working, and we’ve never heard of any problems,” she said.
Brent Champaco: 253-597-8653