This past week, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) kicked off two public meetings to gather feedback about recreation on DNR lands in Whatcom County. Both were extremely well attended by all user groups (with 300 in Bellingham & 150 in Lynden) and were standing room only events. The DNR is trying to address the glaring lack of authorized recreation in Whatcom County. Brock Millern, Jean Fike, Chris Hankey and Dana Leavitt from the DNR gave a fairly brief presentation that you can read here: https://kevinmenard.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/dnr_whatcom_county_rec_planning_meeting_january_2016.pdf
How can you get involved?
- Email the DNR your input (BakertoBellingham@dnr.wa.gov ) which will ensure you are on their email list. See below for more info.
- There will be 3 more public meetings that will happen during the various phases of the process that you should plan to attend.
- There will be a committee of 12-15 people from the various user groups that will help guide the process with DNR staff. If you’ve got the time, knowledge and passion, you need to apply by January 29th. To learn more about the time commitment, look at slide #22 in the DNR presentation linked above.
- The committee will be meeting 12-14x and those meetings are open to the public, but they are working meetings, so the public can only comment at the end of those meetings. The first meeting is on March 8th at Rome Grange Hall.
- Last, you can keep up to date on this process by visiting the DNR’s website at: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/BakertoBellingham
How long will the planning process take?
This planning will take 2 years and will go through a 7 phase process. After planning, determining funding (via grants) will happen next, so this is definitely a marathon and not a sprint.
What will happen to the current user-built trail networks?
There will be a full suitability study to look at many factors involving both existing and potential future trail locations like: Slope stability, wetlands and critical areas, habitat and wildlife, access points, adjacent land owners, conditions of existing trails, etc. Those suitability studies will assess what areas can sustain the various types of recreation.
Give your input:
Beyond what the DNR asked at the stations (see below), please include how you recreate on DNR lands and elsewhere whether that be on wheels (motorized or non), foot, hoof, snowmobile, boat, camping, hunting, fishing, etc. Additionally, if you recreate (currently or previously) on trails on DNR lands, be sure to let them know where as well. The DNR is well aware of the various trail networks, so it will not come to their surprise where folks are riding bikes.
Other things the WMBC would like to suggest:
- Varying levels of trails from beginner to expert.
- Multi-use and single-use options where they make sense.
- Looking at the “ascend only” designation for mt. bikes for heavy multi-use areas (specific trailheads).
- Downhill/descending route options where they make sense.
- Destinations, viewpoints and other interesting features.
- An authorized downhill trail network with shuttle access.
- Trail connectivity between trail networks – where possible.
- Loops are preferable when possible. Stacked loops are ideal for networks that cater to wide ranges of abilities/fitness.
The 4 Listening stations at the meetings covered the following topics:
Station 1: RECREATING IN THE FOREST
- What do you like about recreating in the Baker to Bellingham recreation area?
- What is your favorite place to visit?
- What is missing from your recreation experience?
Station 2: RECREATION TOPICS FOR CONSIDERATION
- Do you have any concerns about the future recreation management or the planning process?
- Are there areas of environmental concern?
- Are there concerns about impacts to private property?
Station 3: ACCESSING THE FOREST
- Where do you go to get onto DNR land?
- Do you access other public lands from DNR lands? If so, where?
Station 4: PARTNERSHIPS/OPPORTUNITIES
- What opportunities are there for partnerships with communities, other land agencies?
- What opportunities are there for landscape connections with other lands-county, state & federal?
Thanks to everyone for participating in this process. You input will be critical ensuring its success!