Planning begins for Lake Whatcom's new park land

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 21, 2014 

Lake Whatcom reconveyance

The light green areas in this map show the almost 9,000 acres around Lake Whatcom that will be converted into parkland after the Whatcom County Council voted 5-2 Tuesday, March 12, 2013 to "reconvey" the land from the state, which was managing it for timber harvesting.

WHATCOM COUNTY — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

The first of several meetings to plan for Whatcom County's newest park is Tuesday, April 29, at Bellingham Senior Activity Center, 315 Halleck St. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

The park was made possible by the transfer of 8,844 acres of forestland around Lake Whatcom from the state to the county. Known as a reconveyance, the land transfer in Lake Whatcom watershed also created the largest park under local control in Washington state. It's more than three times the size of Larrabee State Park.

Two parcels are involved. One is on the slopes of Stewart Mountain on the southeast side of the lake. The other is on Lookout Mountain, also known as Galbraith, on the southwest side.

The transfer became final Jan. 22, when the county received the deed from the Department of Natural Resources.

The goal of the transfer is to provide passive recreation, such as hiking and bicycling, and watershed protection for Lake Whatcom.

At the meeting, Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department staff will provide an overview of the process, the challenges and the land involved. Participants will be asked to help identify important issues, goals and opportunities to help in the planning process.

There's no date yet on when the planning process will be completed. The parks department expects to have another meeting before summer and then again in the fall, if needed.

"We're not in any real deadline in terms of getting this done. It will give us an opportunity to listen, gather information and hear from all the parties," said parks Director Michael McFarlane.

Planning for a park in the watershed will be challenging because impact on the lake's water quality will have to be taken into account, McFarlane said.

Lake Whatcom is the drinking water source for the city of Bellingham and for about 4,000 households in Geneva, Sudden Valley and other areas near the lake.

Park planning also must consider the state's habitat conservation plan - primarily for the rare and endangered marbled murrelet - which will restrict activities in some areas, according to McFarlane.

Details: whatcomcounty.us/parks or call McFarlane at 360-733-2900.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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