While there are differences of opinion regarding some of the beach policy that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission has recommended to the Homer City Council, I think most people want to see decisions based on an accurate understanding of the issues. In that regard, I would like to address Ted Schmidt’s testimony at the last city council meeting when he said “we’re not protecting our public access to our beaches.”
What the commission is proposing with respect to city property is to “close all beaches to vehicles in summer, and allow winter use along a portion of the west part of the Spit.” This does not close access to people to use the beach. Everyone still has access to the beach using publicly owned land. Obviously, the city has no authority to provide access via privately owned beach (above mean high tide) without some sort of taking.
What would be different with this proposal is the mode of access one is allowed to get there. Because of conflicts, off-road use of vehicles would be restricted. This actually protects everyone’s right to safely and enjoyably use our publicly owned beaches for their intended purpose. Restricting vehicles also protects the integrity of beach and its fauna and flora from the damage that typically occurs (and is well documented) with frequent unrestricted use of motorized vehicles.
I would also like to address a question that Councilman Beau Burgess raised at this meeting to Robert Archibald representing the commission. Robert previously said that about two-thirds of those who attended their meetings favored vehicle restrictions. Beau asked why this differed with his informal man-on-the-street poll. This is comparing apples to oranges. The small minority of those who take the time to attend meetings typically represent a larger segment of the public. Unlike the man-on-the street, which is one person’s point of view, those who attend the meetings should be considered a multiplier of opinion. The two are not comparable nor should they be given equal weight.
There is precedence for not giving equal weight to these two types of opinion. Most public hearings provide more time for testimony to those representing organizations then they do for individuals for much the same reason; those speaking for organizations represent many voices, not just one.
In closing, I would like to commend the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission for their careful deliberation of beach policy issues. Over a period of months, everyone who has the interest was given opportunity to express their views. Any last minute objection to their recommendations would be disingenuous to the democratic process that prevailed and those who went by the rules.