Camp Bay barbecue planned to support lake access
Fred and Jennifer Arn are pictured at the end of Camp Bay Road. A hearing to determine whether the court has the authority to set where the Camp Bay Road ends was postponed to allow for talks between the two sides.
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SAGLE — Supporters of preserving public lake access in Camp Bay are organizing a second barbecue at the contested beach, this time to support efforts to intervene in a private developer’s legal efforts to privatize the public road and beach.
The barbecue was originally planned for May, but due to inclement weather, has been rescheduled for Saturday, June 11, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the end of Camp Bay Road. The road ends at the high-water mark of Lake Pend Oreille in Camp Bay, an inlet on the east side of the Sagle peninsula, with views of the Clark Fork Delta, Scotchman Peak and the Monarch Mountains.
Garfield Bay is the only other public road access to the lake on the entire Sagle peninsula.
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall issued a press release last month saying that the county county neither permit nor prohibit a gathering at the contested site.
However, they warned that that uncertainty only related to the 50-foot strip of land beginning at the current end point of the road and extending to the water’s edge.
“All other adjacent property, including the exposed lakebed on either side of that disputed strip, is private. As such, Bonner County strongly encourages the public to respect the property rights of adjacent neighbors and will enforce relevant trespassing and/or vandalism statutes, if forced to do so,” the pair said in the statement.
The event highlights the fight to preserve public access to the 50-foot wide beach at the end of the public right-of-way. M3 ID Camp Bay LLC, an Arizona development company, purchased over 400 acres of property in Camp Bay after the previous owner, Jim Green, convinced Bonner County commissioners to abandon the final half-mile of Camp Bay Road last spring for the purpose of creating a gated community in the bay.
Neighbors Fred and Jennifer Arn appealed the commissioners’ decision, and took it to District Court, winning a new hearing. The court also ordered the county to pay the Arns’ attorney fees.
In its decision to remand the matter back to the county to rehear, the court admonished the commissioners for failing to allow all testimony and noted in the ruling that, due to case law, the road provides public access to Lake Pend Oreille, even though the county planning staff had said otherwise.
The landowner and consultants never disputed the public status of the beach in the application and related documents. Instead, they argued it was in the county’s best interest to abandon the road because of the expense of maintaining the road and the cost to develop public facilities at the lakeshore.
On Feb. 5, neighbors and citizens organized the first Camp Bay barbecue to drum up support for preserving lake access, attracting more than 100 attendees.
At the court-ordered rehearing on Feb. 16, residents packed the room and overwhelmingly argued that the county should deny the road vacation. A surveyor for M3 suggested at the hearing that the road might not actually go to the lake, thereby putting public access in question. That contradicted earlier filings and the district court’s November 15 ruling.
The commissioners unanimously voted to deny the road vacation, but deliberately left the question open as to the status of the beach, which was not the stated purpose of the rehearing.
M3 then filed a motion for a judicial review, which is due to be heard again by the 1st District Court, although no date has been set. Because neighbors and citizens are worried that the county will not defend its decision – or provide evidence that supports public access to the lake – the Arns have agreed to intervene on behalf of the public, because they have standing in the legal matter.
While the Arns and their supporters are confident they will prevail, typically intervenors are not awarded attorney fees. As a result, the Arns are accepting any offers of help including donations at the GoFundMe site and at the barbecue.
Because parking is limited to alongside Camp Bay Road, organizers urge people to carpool to the event. To make a donation on-line or for more information, visit 50feet.net or www.gofundme.com/f/50-feet.