Nearly every Monday, an engineer who maintains the tra

Dilemma at KVI Beach has roots that go back 50 years

Nearly every Monday, an engineer who maintains the transmitter at KVI Beach does something else for the Seattle-based company that owns KVI: He picks up trash strewn by people over the weekend.

And in a few weeks, said John Barrett, chief engineer for Fisher Communications, which owns KVI Beach and its transmitter, the company will spend $4,000 fixing the bridge that spans the stream at the entrance to the beach. Erosion is eating away one end of the span.

All told, Barrett said, he includes in his budget about $10,000 a year to maintain and care for the nearly two acres that the company owns on Vashon’s waterfront.

“What I’d like to get across to the community is that we’d like them to enjoy it; it’s a beautiful place,” he said. “But we’re starting to get more complaints that we ought to take care of the facility. We take darn good care.”

KVI is an anomaly on Vashon — a stretch of private waterfront that’s more publicly embraced than perhaps any other spot on the Island. And some are frustrated by its condition.

After a busy weekend, the trash can be excessive, neighbors say, and has been on occasion this summer.

Fisher Communications has struggled with the issue, Barrett said. At one point, the company had Dumpsters at the site, but it removed them after they became a dumping ground for furniture and garbage from all over the Island, he said.

The company wants to maintain a good relationship with the community, he added, but he’s frustrated by the complaints.

“We’re caught between a rock and hard place, because we want to be a good neighbor, but the more complaints we get, the harder it is for us,” he said. “I encourage the community to have a stake in it.”

So could Fisher close KVI if the situation grew bad enough?

There’s some evidence it couldn’t, said Bruce Haulman, an Island historian who has researched the matter, but the historical record, he added, isn’t completely clear.

According to newspaper accounts, the issue came to a head 50 years ago, when the owner of the transmitter tower, Puget Sound Broadcasting Co., decided to barricade the beach and go to court to “quiet the title,” or legally establish its rights to what Islanders considered a community beach. Ellisport residents were outraged by the company’s attempt, maintaining their rights to the sandy expanse had been guaranteed in the original plat by the Puget Sound Chautauqua Assembly.

“Axes, Plats and Picnics Used in ‘Beach-Right’ Fight,” declared a front-page Beachcomber headline on Aug. 1, 1957.

“Protesting Ellisport residents, who claim beach rights on the spit, are carrying on their own battle against the suit with picnics, a makeshift parallel bridge and even the chopping down of the high barricade now blocking access to the beach,” the story stated.

According to press accounts, the beach was used by the public for years until “a series of incidents” prompted the broadcast company to block access.

Ellisport residents formed a community club to officially fight the case, which was headed to a hearing on March 17, 1958. There, the newspaper accounts end, Haulman said.

“My sense is that it never went to court but was settled out of court,” said Haulman, who plans to continue investigating the issue.

Barrett, told of the legal dispute 50 years ago, scoured files on KVI Beach but said he couldn’t find a record of an agreement between Ellisport residents and the Puget Sound Broadcasting Co.

That corporation later sold the station and its holdings to Golden West Broadcasters, Gene Autry’s radio empire, which eventually sold it to the current owners.

“If the Vashon community thought KVI were to close, there would be quite an outcry,” said Haulman, who has lived in Ellisport since 1978.

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