By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
The ongoing battle over 50 feet of Lake Pend Oreille shoreline at the end of Camp Bay Road on the Sagle peninsula has gained the attention of Bonner County’s highest law enforcement official, as Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Prosecutor Louis Marshall released a joint media statement May 16 regarding an impending gathering on the site, which is the subject of a legal dispute between Bonner County, land developers and local residents.
In a post on the sheriff’s Facebook page, Wheeler and Marshall shared in a signed statement that, “given the uncertain terminus point of Camp Bay Road, the county can neither permit nor prohibit a public gathering at that location, as its authority to do so has not been adjudicated by the court.
“However, that uncertainty only relates to the 50-foot-wide strip of land beginning at the current endpoint of the road and extending to the water’s edge,” the statement continued, noting that all other adjacent property 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.”
Advocates for recognizing the 50-foot strip of shoreline as public lake access first held a barbecue event at the site in February, prior to the county commissioners reconsidering an application from developer M3 ID Camp Bay, LLC to vacate a stretch of the road leading up to the shore. While commissioners ruled in April 2021 that vacating the road was “in the public interest,” Fred and Jennifer Arn — who live on the road — challenged that ruling in court and successfully had the matter remanded back to the board. When commissioners heard the application again in February 2022, they voted to deny it, citing inconsistencies in historical recordings of what was considered the “high water mark” and, therefore, whether the public has a claim to the lake access at the end of the road as part of the county right-of-way.
M3 is now challenging the February ruling in court, and the Arns are intervening in the case.
Fred Arn told the Reader on May 24 that while he “would have liked” for the sheriff and prosecutor’s statement to “have been more balanced,” he felt it “does affirm our right to the 50 feet.”
Susan Drumheller, with the nonprofit Project 7B, which is dedicated to keeping citizens informed about local land use matters, told the Reader on May 17 that her group thinks “it’s very clear that the [right-of-way] extends from the end of the road to the high water mark.”
“Ample evidence provided by the applicant in their initial application and the first hearing, and the public documentation, shows the [right-of-way] extends to the high water mark, thereby making that 50 feet of beach public,” Drumheller wrote in an email. “It was ONLY the county staff report that said otherwise at the time. Unfortunately, the county commissioners chose to declare it a legally gray area and invited M3 to litigate.”
The media release, Drumheller said, amounted to the county’s legal figures “now also taking the stance that it’s a legally gray area,” and that plans for a second gathering at the end of Camp Bay Road — this time, on Saturday, June 11 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. — are unchanged by the statement.
Because parking is limited alongside Camp Bay Road, organizers are urging people to carpool to the event. To learn more about the Arns’ movement, go to 50feet.net.
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