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New trail moves people away from Fairhaven Park wetlands

This new gravel trail replaces the muddy path that went through wetlands in Fairhaven Park. Recreation Northwest led the project to create the route, which put people on a new path, to help protect the wetlands.
This new gravel trail replaces the muddy path that went through wetlands in Fairhaven Park. Recreation Northwest led the project to create the route, which put people on a new path, to help protect the wetlands. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A short new trail is diverting people from sensitive wetlands in Fairhaven Park, and allowing them to avoid mucking through mud in the process.

Recreation Northwest, which organizes races that include the Bellingham Traverse and Quest Adventure, led the project as part of its new stewardship of Fairhaven and Cordata parks.

The nonprofit raised $30,000 for the project to replace the old trail, which was made by people taking a shortcut through the woods. As it became more heavily used by runners, walkers, bicyclists and pets, concerns emerged about the impact on the wetlands.

The new gravel route goes from Fairhaven Park to 18th Street off Old Fairhaven Parkway. It also links the park to the Chuckanut Community Forest.

The 750-foot path was completed in September and has been well-used, according to Todd Elsworth, executive director for Recreation Northwest.

“The traffic has been fantastic,” Elsworth said. “Every time I’m out there I just see more and more people using it.”

A ribbon-cutting celebration is planned for Thursday, Oct. 8, in the park’s upper pavilion.

“We came out with a great product and a trail that looks beautiful and like it has been there for years,” Elsworth said.

Businesses and more than 100 volunteers helped create the trail.

James King, director of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department, praised the project.

“It’s going to be much nicer for the users,” King said, “ but it’s also much nicer for the environment to get people out of that wetland and to let that wetland heal.”

The trail is the first stewardship project for Recreation Northwest, which Elsworth said is caring for and preserving the places where the organization has an impact because of its races.

It’s part of a larger project for Recreation Northwest that includes improving access from the new trail to Chuckanut Community Forest, which had been unofficially used as a park for a number of years before voters in southwest Bellingham decided to create a park district of the same name to essentially tax themselves to help protect its 82 acres from development.

Elsworth will talk about the next part during the Thursday evening celebration.

The forest, which is owned and managed by the city, is adjacent to Fairhaven Park. It’s to be used for nature-oriented, recreational or educational purposes.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

Trail event

What: Recreation Northwest ribbon cutting and tour of new trail.

When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m Thursday, Oct. 8.

Where: Upper pavilion at Fairhaven Park, 107 Chuckanut Drive North in Bellingham.

Details: recreationnorthwest.org and on the organization’s Facebook page.

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