Part of a long-awaited segment of the Bay to Baker Trail near Sunset Pond has opened to the public.
The Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department led a small group on a tour of the open, west segment, which is about three-quarters of a mile long, on Monday, Oct. 17.
They walked along a wide tree-lined trail made pretty with the yellow and orange colors of fall.
When completed in December, the entire trail will be nearly 1 1/2 miles long. Called the Squalicum Creek segment, it will connect Cornwall Park on one side with Irongate Road on the other.
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The 10-foot-wide limestone trail will provide plenty of room, including for bicycle commuters. It will cross three concrete culvert crossings and include one 50-foot bridge over Squalicum Creek – all designed to allow fish passage and to accommodate a 100-year flood.
Leslie Bryson, director of the Parks Department, called it a “great natural corridor right in the middle of the city that people can enjoy.”
“I think that’s pretty special,” she added.
The west segment also took the group past a section of Squalicum Creek that was rerouted around Sunset Pond to improve water quality and to make the creek more habitable for salmon and other wildlife.
Planning for the Squalicum Creek segment of the Bay to Baker Trail started in the early 1970s. The segment starts near Cornwall Park and goes under Interstate 5 and past James Street to Irongate Road, with a connection to Sunset Pond Park.
“Having a crossing under I-5 is great because it’s (the highway) a big barrier between different neighborhoods in our community,” Bryson said.
Money for the project came from $1.1 million from the Greenways III levy that Bellingham voters approved in 2006 and a $500,000 grant from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
It’s part of ongoing work to turn old abandoned railroad lines into new trails.