It’s official — Grays Harbor County forest land is open to the public unless it’s closed for a specific reason.
The county commissioners approved a resolution on Monday authorizing the county forestry department to provide open public access.
The resolution had been brought forward by Commissioner Wes Cormier last week but was postponed because the commissioners wanted to ensure the county could close the land for public safety concerns or during emergencies.
Cormier on Monday applauded the approval of the resolution.
“The open access plan I proposed in 2015 was a commitment to having open access,” Cormier said. “This is the fulfillment of that promise that was made.”
There are concerns with what open access could bring, however. The downside to open access is the increased chance of dumping and poaching and other illegal behaviors. The commissioners have decided to push forward with public access despite those concerns.
“We do expect that there will be dumping and trash, and we’ll have to take it on a case-by-case basis and then determine how to best resolve that…,” Ross said. “The idea is to keep the public access lands open for public access to the citizens..”
“Not letting the few ruin it for the many,” Cormier added.
As was noted last week, not all county land will be accessible to the public. Some of the county’s forest land is only accessible through private property. The county has easement agreements with those landowners, but those agreements do not allow for public access.
But with the resolution, the land that can be accessed now is public.
“…Grays Harbor County-owned and -managed forest land will remain open for recreational opportunities year round during daylight hours, and gates shall remain unlocked and open for public use…” the resolution states.
Commissioner Vickie Raines amended the resolution in her motion to approve. The resolution had initially allowed for public access during “state mandated hunting seasons,” but Raines struck that language. The other commissioners approved and the resolution was passed.
The resolution saw public support during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Dan Boeholt, a local outdoors activist, encouraged the commissioners to approve the resolution.
Linda Webb, a rural landowner, also encouraged the commissioners to approve the resolution, saying it would be good for the overall public.
“Land usage between the county, the state and federal and private owners like this becomes beneficial for all of us,” Webb said.