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Trail planning underway for Whatcom County’s newest, largest park

This view from Stewart Mountain, overlooking Lake Whatcom and Bellingham Bay, could become more available to hikers if the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department creates more trails on the county's newest parkland. A portion of the 8,844 acres of forestland includes Stewart Mountain on the east side of the lake.
This view from Stewart Mountain, overlooking Lake Whatcom and Bellingham Bay, could become more available to hikers if the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department creates more trails on the county's newest parkland. A portion of the 8,844 acres of forestland includes Stewart Mountain on the east side of the lake. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Up to 56 miles of new trails could be built in Whatcom County’s newest parkland in the Lake Whatcom watershed.

The possible trails will be discussed Wednesday, March 18, during the second community meeting about the development of the county’s newest park, made possible by the state’s transfer of 8,844 acres of forestland around Lake Whatcom to the county last year.

Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department is creating a plan to restore and manage the land as mature and old-growth forest habitat with non-motorized trail use.

Known as a reconveyance, the land transfer 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 east side of the lake. The other is on Lookout Mountain on the west side.

Hiking, running, biking and horseback riding would be allowed — balanced with protecting the lake’s water quality and with resource management of streams and forestland where marbled murrelets, a rare and endangered seabird, have been documented.

The goal of the transfer was to provide recreation and watershed protection for Lake Whatcom, which 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.

During the Wednesday meeting, parks staff will give an update about recreational opportunities, including possible trails, and discuss constraints such as steep slopes, unstable areas and marbled murrelet habitat.

Those who attend will be asked for their comments to help guide development of a trails plan.

“Is this the direction that the community wants?” said Rod Lamb, design and development supervisor for the parks department, of the information being sought.

As for the possible trails, Lamb said three alternatives for each side will be presented at the meeting:

• On the west Lookout Mountain side, proposals call for adding 12, 15 or 26 miles of new trails.



• On the east side, called Lake Whatcom Park for now, 7, 18 or 30 miles of new trails could be built.



Each side already has four miles of existing county parks trails.

Lamb said the east side has more opportunities for horseback riding because of an existing trailhead on Y Road.

The west side is more accommodating to mountain bikers because of its proximity to Galbraith’s trails, according to Lamb.

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