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Clayton Beach access CLOSED!! Public safety, or anti-COAL TRAIN protest?

Sandy bluff at Clayton. There is plenty of honeycomb weathered Chuckanut Formation sandstone, too.

Washington State Parks has closed access to Clayton Beach (south end of Larrabee State Park). This is a great geologic area, as well as one of the finest PUBLIC BEACHES in the region. (Read a field trip description here.)

My family at Clayton in 1996. Never feared the trains at the crossing!

The explanation from the Parks website says:

“Clayton Beach access closed: The access to Clayton Beach is closed until further notice, due to public safety concerns and to stop public trespass on private property. Previous access to the beach via unauthorized use of Burlington Northern Santa Fe property must be discontinued because of inadequate sight lines for pedestrians to see on-coming trains when crossing the rails to access the beach area. State Parks has plans for eventual construction of a rail overpass that will provide safe access to Clayton Beach, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe is in agreement with this plan.”

People have been safely crossing the railroad tracks for generations. Suddenly there are  private property and public safety issues. I’ve never heard of, or seen, problems with oncoming trains. Not so long ago, the State built a big parking lot up on Chuckanut Drive so people could hike down to Clayton. I suspect that there is another reason behind the closure: the trail across the tracks is an ideal site to stage large scale public protests against the proposed coal trains (or am I just a cynic?). Closing the access might be an effort to subvert this ‘threat’ to the railroad. A large protest at the Clayton Beach crossing could close down the railroad line for a long time, and law enforcement would be stretched trying to clear demonstrators from the area.

What’s next- close access across the tracks to Teddy Bear Cove, a Whatcom County Park? And then… the hard-fought public access across the tracks to Boulevard Park via the South Bay Trail in Bellingham? Remember when hundreds of citizens, and the mayor, ‘trespassed’ to ensure that right?

There is now no legal access to Clayton Beach, a PUBLIC BEACH, except by boat. This is a tragic loss of a wonderful public resource used by families for generations. I encourage letters of protest to:

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
P.O. Box 42650
Olympia, WA 98504-2650

Dave Tucker


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