FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community comes together for celebration of new park
Lake Whatcom park now the largest local park in Washington State
Bellingham, WA - Nearly two hundred Whatcom County residents gathered to commemorate the county’s newest and largest park. On January 22, 2014, approximately 8,844 acres of forested slopes above Lake Whatcom was officially transferred from the Washington Department of Natural Resources ownership to Whatcom County, to manage the land as the largest county park in the state.
County Executive Jack Louws and County Parks Director Mike McFarlane cut a symbolic ribbon for the new park. Photo: Paul Anderson
Bellingham, WA – Nearly two hundred Whatcom County residents gathered today at Bellingham’s Bloedel Donovan Park to commemorate the county’s newest and largest park.
On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, approximately 8,844 acres of forested slopes above Lake Whatcom was officially transferred from the Washington Department of Natural Resources ownership to Whatcom County, to manage the land as the largest county park in the state.
The event featured brief remarks from a variety of local elected and community leaders and culminated with County Executive Jack Louws cutting a symbolic ribbon for the new park. (High res photo, permission for use granted, please credit Paul Anderson.)
The park is comprised of two separate pieces, one covering the slopes of Stewart Mountain, on the southeast side of the lake, the other on Lookout Mountain on the southwest side.
Whatcom County Parks will develop a plan to restore and manage these lands as mature and old-growth forest habitat with carefully constructed, non-motorized trail use similar to the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. The lands have exceptional views and will provide for great hiking, running, camping, biking, and equestrian use consistent with water quality goals. The forests contain streams and remnant old-growth remnant groves where marbled murrelets, a rare endangered seabird that requires older coastal forests, have been occasionally documented.
Trails on the reconveyed lands will create an important link in a system of trails that will eventually connect Mount Baker to Bellingham Bay. WTA bus system service is available to many access points in the Lookout Mountain portion of the park. A hiker will be able to hike point-to-point with no need for a car.
Mike McFarlane, Director of Whatcom Parks & Recreation, explained the upcoming process for planning park infrastructure - including an extensive non-motorized recreational trail network that will connect existing parks such as Squires Lake, Whatcom Falls, Lake Padden, Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve, and Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. The park plan will also include management emphasizing ecological objectives.
Lisa McShane, a long-time county resident and advocate for the new park emceed the event. “One hundred years from now Whatcom County will have grown tremendously and this park will be a treasure to all the people who live here,” said McShane. “Future residents will thank those who had the courage and conviction to make this a reality.”
Various organizations had volunteer-staffed tables offer information about the park and opportunities for enjoying it. Young children were able to ride mountain bikes on a small scale outdoor course before the event.
Rand Jack, with Whatcom Land Trust, said, “In thirty-five years of conservation work in Whatcom County, I’ve never before seen business, conservation and recreation interests all come together the way we did here. It speaks to a shared vision and opportunity we have in this community to have a healthy landscape and a healthy economy.”
Eric Brown, a leader in the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, said, “This incredible park will add to Bellingham draw for world class outdoor recreation. I’m excited about helping create a network of trails that is challenging, scenic and sustainable, so generations can enjoy and learn from this place.”
The celebration was sponsored by Whatcom Land Trust, Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, Cascade Mountain Runners, Conservation Northwest and Whatcom County Parks & Recreation.