Nudist group sues to stop public gun range north of Sultan

SULTAN — A nudist recreation club is suing to stop a public gun range from being built along Sultan Basin Road, claiming that the state improperly agreed to transfer land for the range to Snohomish County.

The state Board of Natural Resources in early December voted to reconvey 150 acres of forestland to Snohomish County for a future park. County officials said they wanted to use the site for a gun range and hoped to start initial planning this year.

Lake Bronson Club and other neighbors in the rural area have opposed the county’s plan. They have concerns about noise and pollution. The club and one of its leaseholders, Dennis Potter, filed the suit Jan. 5 in King County Superior Court.

“After discussion, the board of directors just felt it was in our best interest to do this,” the club’s secretary, Jodi Halfhill, said Monday. “We’re thinking it’s not a good idea to have a shooting range a mile away from a social camping club.”

The club occupies 320 scenic acres down the road from where the county wants to build the public range. The club’s website highlights a 7.5-acre spring-fed lake, 85-foot waterfall and miles of hiking trails.

The Lake Bronson group has been active in the area for several generations. State records show that Lake Bronson Associates has been a registered corporation in Washington since 1945. Halfhill and other members said the nudist club started in the 1930s and now attracts visitors from around the world.

The defendants named in the suit are Snohomish County, the state Department of Natural Resources and commissioner of public lands Peter Goldmark. Representing the club is attorney James C. Hanken of Seattle firm Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch.

The parcel in question was among the vast tracts of forestland that counties throughout Washington gave to the state in the 1920s to manage on the public’s behalf.

The lawsuit contends that the recent hand-over failed to comply with state law, in particular, a law saying that the transferred land must be used for a public park in accordance with state and county outdoor recreation plans.

The lawsuit also challenges the transfer over state growth and environmental policies.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to cancel the land transfer and to make the state and county governments cover the cost of bringing the suit, as well as any other relief the court deems appropriate.

For their part, county officials are “looking into the lawsuit and feel confident defending the county’s position,” said Jason Cummings, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor.

A Natural Resources spokeswoman confirmed that the agency’s officials have received the suit and are reviewing it.

The county budget currently has no money set aside for the range project, though a six-year parks budget calls for $650,000 to develop it.

Many tourism and government officials see the shooting range as part of a larger tourism strategy to bring more visitors to the U.S. 2 corridor, which also includes Natural Resource’s extensive trail system at Reiter Foothills and the Lower Town Wall in Index, a world-famous destination for rock climbers.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

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