The master plan for the Hundred Acre Wood was unanimously approved by the Bellingham City Council on September 12, 2022. The adopted plan is a significant milestone toward managing and protecting the 112-acre forested park on Bellingham’s southside.
“This moment culminates an unprecedented community effort and is a celebration for many,” said Nicole Oliver, Bellingham Parks & Recreation director. The plan outlines goals, uses and strategies to manage and protect the park, which includes two existing conservation easements, is a noted wildlife corridor, and contains numerous forested wetlands that feed fish-bearing Chuckanut and Padden creeks.
In addition to adopting the master plan, the City Council also finalized the name Hundred Acre Wood for the park, which also has been known as the Chuckanut Community Forest. The Council’s actions set in motion a transition that includes dissolving the park district taxing authority, updating and transferring easements, and beginning restoration and improvement projects.
“The approval of this master plan puts into action a strategic vision to restore and enhance the Hundred Acre Wood’s web of forested trails, wetlands and wildlife habitat,” Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said. “The plan reflects the extensive community collaboration over decades that successfully saved this cherished forest through diligent perseverance and ensured its protection in perpetuity as a Greenways legacy property.”
Following approval of the master plan, the City petitioned the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District to dissolve. The Park District has one year to do so. Park District board members have noted their appreciation to the many community members whose determination contributed to the protection of the forest, including Robyn Dupré, Joe Yaver and Bob Gibb, who have passed away. The existing conservation easement on 82 acres of the forest (currently held by the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District) will need to be transferred to another qualified entity, likely a land trust.
The Hundred Acre Wood Master Plan calls for restoring critical wetlands, decommissioning some trails and improving other trails and continues to allow bikes and leashed dogs, along with improved wayfinding, signage and dog waste stations.
Extensive public involvement
Launched in January 2021, the master planning process included significant public involvement, consultant assistance and technical resources that resulted in the final draft master plan. Several suggested improvements submitted through public comment strengthened the final plan.
The planning process combined guidance from the Hundred Acre Wood Steering Committee, the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District Board, consultants, park visitors and the public. City staff used extensive technical resources and reports to inform the plan as well as community surveys, a virtual open house, and an Engage Bellingham project page, and voluminous comments were submitted as part of the formal review process.
Core goals that align with the City’s 2020 Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan (PRO Plan) have been consistent throughout the master planning process: protect and restore the forest, improve hydrologic function of the wetlands, improve climate resiliency, and ensure continued safe public access and educational opportunities.
A unique legacy
Following decades of community commitment to save the forest from development, the park was purchased by the City in 2011 for $8.2 million using Greenways funds, including a $3.25 million interfund loan. The Chuckanut Community Forest Park District was formed and levied a property tax for 10 years in five southside neighborhoods to repay the loan. The Community Forest Park District noted at its June 2022 meeting that the loan is paid in full.