Brown Island, San Juan Islands

Collaboration among neighbors can be the key to improving a beach—because when one stretch of bulkhead comes down, what about those on either side?

On tiny Brown Island, just off San Juan Island in well-protected Friday Harbor, the owners of three adjacent properties decided to take on a bulkhead removal and beach restoration project together. Drag the slider to see the Brown Island site before and after the removal of large rocks piled along the shore.
For the first time in years, the homeowners had a beach to walk on at high tide.

“It all started a few years ago when I saw a newsletter from Friends of the San Juans on armoring and how it can degrade the beach, which was a huge shock to me,” property owner Mariluz Villa told the San Juan Islander. “That’s when we decided to see what we could do to improve our beach.”

That sense of stewardship led to a project—launched in 2015 with significant government grants—to remove 175 cubic yards of rock, replenish the formerly buried upper beach with sand and gravel, and add native vegetation, including dune grass and snowberry.

Friends of the San Juans is coordinating the project and contributing some funding; the homeowners are also paying some of the costs.

In low-erosion zones such as those in the San Juans, armor removal projects like this one make a huge amount of sense—for the fish and orcas who live in the waters as well as for homeowners who will enjoy a more attractive and accessible beach for years to come.

The Brown Island project is helping to “set the table” for the entire Salish Sea food chain. Watch it on YouTube instead.

The project included removing 175 cubic yards of rock and replenishing the upper beach.