Families

Whatcom County parks offer something special in summer

A participant in pioneer dress is shown at the Old Settlers Picnic at Pioneer Park in Ferndale in July 2009.
A participant in pioneer dress is shown at the Old Settlers Picnic at Pioneer Park in Ferndale in July 2009. The Bellingham Herald

Here’s a look at three Whatcom County parks that are perfect for summertime fun. They’re not “parks” in the traditional sense of the word, but they all offer a chance to explore nature and learn a bit of local history while still getting outside and stretching your legs.

PIONEER PARK

This collection of buildings offers a glimpse of how early European settlers to the Northwest lived. A farmhouse, barn, church, schoolhouse, jail, post office, general store, and several homes are carefully preserved and decorated with period furniture, household goods, and tools. Buildings are closed except for special Christmas festivities from Sept. 15 to May 15, and the pioneer buildings can be viewed from the outside anytime for free. But from May 15 to Sept. 15, docents dressed in period costume offer guided tours inside the buildings and describe pioneer life in detail.

Every summer, the Whatcom Old Settlers Picnic celebrates pioneer life. Festivities this year are July 28-31.

A nearby park has traditional playground equipment.

Details: The 15 pioneer-era buildings are open and staffed with guides in period dress from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily except Mondays, May 15 to Sept. 15. Tours are $5 adults, $3 for children 6-12, and free for those younger than 6. Details: call 360-384-6461, or see ferndaleheritagesociety.com and whatcomoldsettlers.com.

Getting there: Pioneer Park is at 2004 Cherry St., just south of downtown Ferndale. Take Interstate 5 to exit 262 (Main Street) and drive west. Turn left onto Second Avenue, which is the second street past the Nooksack River bridge.

ZUANICH POINT PARK

For a taste of Bellingham’s working waterfront, visit the 4.4-acre Zuanich Point Park at Squalicum Harbor. The Port of Bellingham facility includes a play area, lawns, and a walking/bicycling path that’s perfect for a summertime stroll.

Because of the constant breeze off the bay, it’s a favorite Bellingham location for flying kites. Along the waterfront, be sure to point out the different kinds of boats, and ask your children if they can guess what kind of task each vessel is used for, from fishing boats to sailboats to pleasure craft.

“We love Zuanich,” says Lena Johnston Shammel of Sudden Valley. “If you go, walk the whole trail so you can really grasp what it has to offer.”

Zuanich Point Park includes the Fishers’ Memorial and is near the Marine Life Center, with its aquariums and tide pool tanks, open daily at 1801 Roeder Ave.

Details: Children’s play area, paved bike and walking path, picnic tables, and restrooms.

Getting there: The park is at 2600 Harbor Loop Drive, where there’s usually plenty of free parking. Details: 360-676-2500 and portofbellingham.com/509/Zuanich-Point-Park.

WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

Western Washington University offers a change of pace from swings and slides and basketball courts (find those at Laurel Park on East Laurel Street, between Billy Frank Jr. and and High streets in Sehome neighborhood just a few blocks north of campus).

Start with a tree tour on the lawn and wooded area in front of Old Main and Wilson Library. There’s a mammoth giant sequoia near Edens Hall, too big to wrap your arms around but big enough for a game of hide-and-seek. The wooded bird sanctuary offers shade and a lawn for tag or Frisbee or catch. There’s also a network of sidewalks for riding bikes.

An interactive tree tour at treetour.wwu.edu tells you what kind of tree you’re looking at, and what makes it special. There’s food available at Viking Union, right across High Street, and Wilson Library has clean restrooms and water fountains. Added bonus: Wilson Library has a fascinating children’s collection, and anyone with an account at a Whatcom County library can borrow books there.

Details: The campus is less crowded in the summer, and children might also enjoy free art exhibits in the Western Galleries, the outdoor sculpture exhibits, the fountain at Red Square, and geology and natural history exhibits in the Environmental Studies Building.

Getting there: Pay to park on weekdays at WWU, even when school isn’t in session. However in the summer, free parking on streets adjacent to campus is easier to find. There’s regular Whatcom Transportation Authority bus service from downtown to the High Street area of campus near Viking Union, Wilson Library, and Old Main.

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