Who owns a beach, who owns the water?

“No Trespassing” signs at Lisabeula are out of place.

Imagine if you will: you are a child, say 4, 5 or 6, and your parent or grandparent, auntie, uncle or teacher brings you to the beach. It is low tide and your sense of wonder is electrified — from the tiniest shell to the mysterious squirt of a clam and the swoop of a seagull or the heft of the osprey’s wingspan. Your small bare feet squish in the wet sand of the low tide, and the kelp stretches in wide ribbons along the beach.

But wait, you are no longer allowed to walk on the beach where generations of other Vashon children have walked, going all the way back and beyond your grandparents. And now, the adults who are with you and your young friends do not know how to explain private property to you or how to tell you what those new signs boasting “No Trespassing” at Lisabeula mean. They falter but try, and then you ask if this means the birds can’t fly over the beach anymore, or if the seals will have to go to jail. That adult who is holding your hand wonders with you, wonders if a barbed wire fence or even a wall might be next.

— Merna Ann Hecht

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