How will mountain biking, trails on Galbraith Mountain be affected by $3 million deal?

Ride Galbraith Mountain, one of Washington’s best mountain bike areas

Ride along with mountain bikers on Galbraith Mountain. Minutes from downtown Bellingham, Galbraith is rated as one of Washington State's best mountain biking areas.
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Ride along with mountain bikers on Galbraith Mountain. Minutes from downtown Bellingham, Galbraith is rated as one of Washington State's best mountain biking areas.

People will forever be able to mountain bike, hike and run on Galbraith Mountain after its current owner sold easement rights for $3 million — essentially permanently protecting it from development.

The rights cover 2,229 acres, including up to 65 miles of trails on the mountain just east of Bellingham.

Galbraith Tree Farm sold the easements for recreation and conservation to the City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Land Trust.

The Bellingham City Council approved the sale Monday night. It is expected to close later this summer.

The city agreed to pay $2.75 million from voter-approved Greenway Funds, and the Whatcom Land Trust contributed $250,000.

“We are so excited to have an agreement to protect this amazing community asset,” Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said Tuesday in announcing the sale. “Securing the public’s use of the mountain for recreation, protecting the mountain from development, and ensuring the landowner’s continued growth and harvest of timber is a win-win for everyone.”

Logging will continue on the mountain.

Recreation groups, which have worked for years to protect recreation on the mountain, cheered the sale.

“It’s a long time coming. Many deals have fallen through,” said Eric Brown, trail director for the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. “It’s been a rocky road, but we’re really glad we got her done.”

The nonprofit biking coalition, a trail advocacy group, has built and maintained a network of trails on Galbraith Mountain for 32 years. It will continue to do so.

Brown said the deal, for the first time, guarantees public access for recreation.

About 1,023 acres are in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The lake is the source of drinking water for about 100,000 residents in Whatcom County, including Bellingham, and the purchase protects that source, officials said.

“After a decade or more of effort, the Whatcom Land Trust is thrilled that the original goals of permanent recreation, public access and protection from development have been accomplished,” Whatcom Land Trust Executive Director Rich Bowers said in a statement.

“Galbraith Mountain has long been a highly used and nationally recognized resource,” Bowers added. “Now Galbraith is guaranteed to forever provide these values to the Whatcom community.”

Galbraith Tree Farm bought 2,240-acres on Galbraith Mountain from the Paulus Estate in 2017.

The property, which is zoned for commercial forestry, is under the management of Janicki Logging, which is based in Sedro-Woolley.

“Tens of thousands of bikers, hikers and runners use the tree farm year-round,” said Rob Janicki, principal owner of Galbraith Tree Farm, in a statement. “We have worked cooperatively with the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition since 2010 to preserve and enhance the public’s recreational use of the tree farm, and our excellent record of public safety is a hallmark of that outstanding cooperation.”

This story will be updated.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea