A public process to create a master plan for the Chuckanut Community Forest is now underway, led by the City’s Parks & Recreation Department and a steering committee of community members.
The Chuckanut Community Forest, adjacent to Fairhaven Park, is a beloved natural forested area enjoyed by many. It was purchased in 2011 with Greenways levy funds and park impact fees for $8.23 million, funding that has been partially repaid by nearby residents through a park district levy.
“Our community’s commitment to acquiring this property ten years ago made this forest a jewel of the Bellingham park and open space system,” Mayor Seth Fleetwood said. “We look forward to hearing from community members and building a master plan that will guide and protect this special area long into the future.”
The master planning process will include:
- Obtaining public input on current and future use preferences;
- Establishing a project boundary and name for the forest;
- Highlighting key priorities of protection, education, restoration, and access;
- Providing clear and concise guidance to the City about any potential future suggested uses;
- Clarifying priorities for improvements, enhancements and restoration;
- Using existing research and studies to further the depth of accuracy and specificity about the property.
Public survey now open
The project steering committee, composed of adjacent neighborhood representatives, Chuckanut Community Forest Park District board members, recreational users and City staff, are looking for public input on how people use the area now and their hopes for the future.
The survey is available on the project’s Engage Bellingham webpage and will be open through the middle of September. The planning effort is expected to take through the end of 2021 and will include an open house followed by a formal legislative review in early 2022.
Parks & Recreation Department Director Nicole Oliver said that, at the time of purchase, the City and the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District (CCFPD) established a conservation easement to protect the property from development and described the need for a master plan prior to the dissolution of the park district. Now that the $3.23 million is nearly paid back to the City’s Greenways Fund by park district residents, the community needs to create a master plan so that the district may dissolve with a dynamic, long-lasting plan in place to guide the future of the forest, she said.