Whatcom parks foundation partners to build amenities, promote loop trail

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 12, 2013 

On a sunny day our local parks are filled with enthusiastic park users engaged in a diverse range of activities. Families flock to our parks to climb on the play structures, splash in the spray parks, picnic or play sports. Dogs come out with their owners in tow. Hikers, bicyclists, runners and horse folk utilize trails all over the county. We in Whatcom County enjoy a bounty of parks and open space and are fortunate to have several fine management agencies in charge of their stewardship.

One organization that plays a pivotal role in support of our favorite parks is the Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting parks and recreation opportunities throughout Whatcom County, its cities and communities. The strength of the foundation lies in its many community partnerships. The Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation works hand-in-hand with many small, citizen-driven groups to forward projects in local parks and communities. Working together with local park agencies, the foundation encourages citizens to take an active role in supporting their parks. Because Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation can receive and administer donations of cash, materials, and real property to benefit parks and recreation in Whatcom, it is able to with more flexibility than some government agencies. In turn, the foundation can work with public and private organizations and complement their efforts to enhance and maintain local parks and trails now and for future generations.

PARTNERS IN THE COMMUNITY

The Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation has created partnerships with many community groups and helped see the projects through to completion. Recent partnerships include working with Project Labyrinth to install the meditation labyrinth in Fairhaven Park, the Vander Yacht family to build and maintain the Josh Vander Yacht Memorial Park in Van Zandt, and working with KGMI to build the monument to honor local soldiers at Memorial Park in Bellingham.

The foundation works with local park agencies to allow private citizens to donate to projects they want to support, like much-needed maintenance at Woodstock Farm and the Hovander Homestead, Birch Bay State Park playground and the Big Rock Sculpture Garden.

AN INDEPENDENT VOICE

In addition to supporting citizen-driven initiatives, the foundation also promotes independent projects such as the Nooksack Loop Trail initiative, a long-term initiative to build a 45-mile trail loop connecting the communities of Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden and Everson. This is not a new idea. The project is based on existing trail plans for the cities involved and the county parks Comprehensive Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan. The foundation is taking the lead to move these plans forward within each region of the proposed trail. With so many public agencies and private citizens involved, this will probably takes decades to achieve. The vision is strong, and with support from the public it is a vision that the foundation intends to see through to completion.

Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation supports local groups through their micro-grant program, providing financial support to small citizen-driven parks and recreation improvement initiatives. The Center for Local Self-Reliance, the Everson Garden Club and the Bellingham Boating Center are just a few of the groups that have benefitted from the micro-grant program.

The foundation seeks to become more engaged within the community with a variety of events and opportunities for direct public involvement. In October of 2012 the foundation hosted the Whatcom Active Transportation Summit, which zeroed in on our county's need to better understand the challenges facing development of our regional active transportation network and the need to develop a broader infrastructure to achieve those common goals.

In October of 2014, the foundation will serve as host for the Washington State Trails Conference. The event should attract approximately 300 trail advocates from around the state, with workshops and presentations on a range of subjects. Trail enthusiasts will have the opportunity to experience some of Whatcom's finest trails as well.

The next step

As an active organization in our community supporting parks and trails since 1989, Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation continues to need public support. Through individual memberships, corporate donations and public fundraising events, the foundation hopes to raise enough capital to expand its operational capacity so it may carry out its mission to enhance and maintain our parks, trails and recreation opportunities now and for future generations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Tepper is the president of the Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation. For more information about the organization go online to wprfoundation.org or call 360-389-3803.

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