Outdoors

Muddy Boots

Building a park is a volunteer effort

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What: Chuckanut Community Forest Park District meeting
When: 7pm Thurs., Nov. 13
Where: Bellingham Public Library, Fairhaven Branch, Fireplace Room
Info: http://www.chuckanutcommunityforest.com

What: Fairhaven Park Trail Relocation Orientation
When: 1pm Sun., Nov. 30
Where: Fairhaven Park Upper Pavilion

Monday, November 10, 2014

Feeling gloomy about election results, Bellingham? Get out! In sunnier days, Southside voters approved a levy for the creation of the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District, a property tax instrument intended to make the Greenways endowment whole following the purchase of the vast acreage south of Bellingham known as Chuckanut Ridge.

“We’ve been approached to accept a gift of a small parcel of property adjacent to park property,” she said. “If we do accept this gift, we will need to budget for liability insurance and some title closing costs.” Details of the district’s successes and challenges will be presented by the CCFPD board at their budget meeting this week.

One of the subdued little excitements of Chuckanut Ridge has been the quiet assembly of adjacent properties by the city’s parks and Greenways boards that have increased the size of parkland to more than 100 acres, allowing the property to be linked directly to Fairhaven Park and trail systems to the north. Years of love, as hikers and bikers have crossed into these lands, have taken their toll, however. While the city has begun preliminary planning for park improvements, volunteers have stepped up to help repair and better connect trails in the near term.

Recreation Northwest will lead an effort to build a new trail in Fairhaven Park, replacing an existing trail that passes through vulnerable wetlands. The current trail’s location and increasingly heavy use is causing damage to the land and watershed. The new trail will connect Fairhaven Park to 18th Street off of Fairhaven Parkway.

Launched last year, the nonprofit recreational organization approached park district commissioners with a proposal to serve as a park steward, leading volunteer work parties to maintain and improve trails in the forest, which is home to sections of the Bellingham Traverse and Kulshan Quest Adventure Race courses Recreation Northwest sponsors. The races take their toll on trails, and the organization is committed to their repair and improvement.

“We saw a great opportunity to demonstrate our mission of promoting outdoor recreation, and bringing people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play,” said Todd Elsworth, executive director of Recreation Northwest.

“We are excited to collaborate with our team of professionals, the City of Bellingham’s Parks and Recreation Department, and Public Works to relocate this popular trail out of the wetland to higher ground, to protect the surrounding landscape and provide greater accessibility for all.”

“Recreation is so important for the health and well-being of our residents, and it adds to the quality of life that we all enjoy here,” said Bellingham City Council member Roxanne Murphy, who chairs the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee. “This trail improvement will be ideal for our athletes and families, alike, and developing it in an environmentally sustainable way will also be in the best interest of everyone and everything.”

To fund the project, Recreation Northwest recently kicked off a fundraising campaign, with a goal to raise $30,000. The organization has secured valuable commitments of support from Gerry Wilbour of Northwest Trails, Inc.; Perry Welch of Welch Ecological Services; Andrew Law of Wilson Engineering; and Brent Cowden of Cowden Gravel. Bellingham Parks and Recreation staff have also been instrumental in helping secure necessary applications and permits.

Recreation Northwest plans to continue to help improve trails throughout the forest, participate in long-term planning concerning the park and connect it to the forest land known—a bit stingily these days, it seems—as the 100 Acre Wood.

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