Local

New checkpoints help rescuers find hurt, lost people faster in Chuckanuts

Reid Parker, conservation and parks steward for the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department, helps put up one of the new map kiosks and checkpoint signs on Chuckanut Mountain. Volunteers from trail stewardship groups, emergency responders, as well as state and county agencies worked together to put up the kiosks at key trail intersections on Chuckanut in Whatcom County and on Blanchard Mountain in Skagit County.
Reid Parker, conservation and parks steward for the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department, helps put up one of the new map kiosks and checkpoint signs on Chuckanut Mountain. Volunteers from trail stewardship groups, emergency responders, as well as state and county agencies worked together to put up the kiosks at key trail intersections on Chuckanut in Whatcom County and on Blanchard Mountain in Skagit County. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Ethelmarie Kitching often encountered lost visitors during her runs over miles of trails on Chuckanut Mountain, so much so that she carried maps to give away.

The Sandy Point ultra runner said she hated the thought of visitors missing the trail to Pine and Cedar lakes or Fragrance Lake, and the beauty found along the way, because they missed a turn.

That’s less likely to happen these days, thanks to new kiosks with maps of the trail system that were erected on key trail intersections on the mountain.

That effort was made possible by a $480 grant from the Whatcom Parks & Recreation Foundation. Kitching applied for it on behalf of the Bellingham Trail Running Club, one of the trail stewardship groups that took part in a project that grew to include medical checkpoints to allow rescuers to find people hurt or lost on local trails – and to get to those who need help faster.

Recreation groups said more and better signs have been needed for a while.

“I’ve run up there for years and I can’t tell you the amount of lost people I’ve met up there,” said Daniel Probst, a Bellingham ultra runner and founder of Cascade Mountain Runners, one of the volunteer groups that was part of the effort.

A total of 10 checkpoints were installed on Chuckanut Mountain at key trail intersections. All have letters associated with them, such as B for Bravo found at the North Lost Lake and Salal trails and D for Delta found at the North Lost Lake and Raptor Ridge trails.

“It’s just an overall improvement of way-finding,” said Reid Parker, conservation and parks steward for the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Those who need help can call 911 and direct responders to the closest checkpoint. Or use posted maps if they get lost.

“This will help with safety,” said Kitching, who also is a member of the Bellingham Trail Running Club. “People are going to get aid quicker than they could before. It could potentially save lives.”

The kiosks and EMS checkpoints, as they’re known, also were placed on miles of trails on nearby Blanchard Mountain in Skagit County. Eight checkpoints went up on Blanchard, which sometimes is referred to as Chuckanut south.

The contiguous mountains are popular destinations for people who run, hike, bike and ride their horses.

The newest checkpoints were modeled after those put into place in 2011 on Galbraith Mountain, a mountain biking mecca that has grown increasingly popular with runners and hikers.

The WMBC, which maintains the trails on Galbraith, created those checkpoints in conjunction with Bellingham Fire Department and South Whatcom Fire Authority.

The system has worked well, according to fire authority Chief David Ralston.

“People know their checkpoints,” Raltson said. “It’s a good foundation. We’ve learned from some of those.”

As of last winter, 92 percent of emergency calls to Galbraith had used the checkpoints, according to Eric Brown, trail director for WMBC.

The kiosks and checkpoints were erected on Chuckanut and Blanchard in the spring and summer with the help of stewardship groups and their volunteers. A number of different agencies took part in the project because the trail system goes over county and state lands.

Agencies that were involved were Whatcom County Parks, Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the state Department of Natural Resources, Bellingham Fire Department and the South Whatcom Fire Authority.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

Maps for your smartphone

Download an interactive map of the trail system on Chuckanut Mountain, including locations of new medical checkpoints, onto your mobile device by going online to whatcomcounty.us/parks, selecting “Maps” from “Maps & Publications” on the left side of the homepage, and following the instructions.

A mobile map for Blanchard Mountain, which also is called the Blanchard Forest Block, is available by going online to dnr.wa.gov/MobileMaps. The map doesn’t show new checkpoints.

  Comments