A draft master plan for the Hundred Acre Wood (also known as the Chuckanut Community Forest) is scheduled for a public hearing before the Bellingham City Council on Monday, August 29, 2022.
The draft plan proposes goals, uses and strategies to manage and protect a 112-acre forested park on Bellingham’s southside, which is located between Fairhaven Park, Chuckanut Drive and Old Samish Road and includes a portion of the Interurban Greenway, the Chuckanut Community Forest easement and Hoag’s Pond.
The draft Hundred Acre Wood Master Plan defines clear priorities and serves as a reference for future improvements and projects planned for the property. It proposes no significant development or hardscape now or in the future, with existing conservation easements permanently protecting most of the property. The plan proposes continuing to allow bikes and leashed dogs, along with improved wayfinding, signage and dog waste stations. The plan calls for restoring critical wetlands, decommissioning some trails and improving other trails.
“The Hundred Acre Wood’s web of forested trails connect surrounding parks and neighborhoods and, with its native forests, wetlands and wildlife habitat, provides critical ecological functions,” Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said. “There are strong sentiments in the community for ensuring that we protect and restore the unique values of this property. The draft plan reflects extensive community collaboration, compromise and progress. Completing this planning process and moving forward to improve and restore impacted areas is imperative to protecting this Greenways legacy property in our City,” Fleetwood said.
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.
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.
The draft master plan has been approved by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Greenways Advisory Committee.
Naming of this cherished area as the Hundred Acre Wood was also included in the overall project. The new name will be formally considered by the City Council during its August 29 meeting as well the Council holding a public hearing on the draft master plan.
The forest includes two existing conservation easements, is a noted wildlife corridor, and contains numerous forested wetlands that feed fish-bearing Chuckanut and Padden creeks.
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.
The property has seen a variety of uses as well as development threats over time. Past uses and increased visitation in recent years have put pressure on the ecological functions of the area, including the wetlands, native plant species, and resident and migratory wildlife. The master plan will guide future activities within the park that serve to restore and preserve the natural environment while providing environmentally conscientious educational and recreational opportunities to various users.
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.
Once the master planning effort is completed, the City will notify the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District to dissolve. The entity has one year to do so. The existing conservation easements (currently held by the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District) will need to be updated and transferred to another entity, likely a land trust, steps that will require further City Council approvals in the future.
- August 29, 2022, City Council agenda with public hearing details available at meetings.cob.org
- Hundred Acre Wood/Chuckanut Community Forest Master Plan webpage