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Our Mission: To enhance the quality of life in the Chuckanuts through the purchase and stewardship of sensitive lands, while accommodating low-impact outdoor recreation and educational activities.

August 1, 2011 Update

The Chuckanut Mountains Park District took a pretty good right hook to the jaw in 2008 when opponents managed to convince a Skagit County judge that a minor typo on the petition to create the park district was a greater threat to democracy than simply allowing the voters to vote.  Never mind that the typo could have easily been corrected with the flick of a pen by the Boundary Review Board.  That is their purpose after all, to review boundaries.

Rest assured that this was only a temporary setback, courtesy of the North Sound Conservancy, an opposition group led by a band of wealthy property owners residing in a gated community along Chuckanut Drive.  Their fears of a reckless park district taking their land and plopping down amusement parks, was, well, amusing.  Sadly, some voters do respond to that kind of fear mongering.  We are confident that most do not.

Had the economy not taken a downturn, we would likely have restarted the petition process immediately.  The bottom line, as always, is that the decision to create a park district (or not) ultimately belongs to the voters.  And the voters will have their say.

As history tells us, every economic downturn eventually leads to a recovery, thus there is no doubt things will rebound.  And while we may have seen a brief lull in development pressure in the Chuckanuts and around the region, it certainly hasn't gone away for good.  The population of Whatcom and Skagit Counties is still projected to increase by more than 100,000 people in the next dozen years.  Developers and speculators are still grinding away at their plans for new projects, ready to leap once the markets recover.

The DNR still intends to substantially increase logging and new road construction across two-thirds of Blanchard Mountain.  Conservation groups filed a lawsuit in 2007 to stop the logging plan and won an important victory in 2008 in which the DNR was required to go back and study the environmental impacts of its plan.  As if to emphasize the point, Mother Nature tested the stability of the DNR's road system that winter.  At least one major slide occurred where a portion of a logging road collapsed high on the mountain.  The slide occurred in an area that the DNR's maps said should be stable.  The agency appealed the judge's ruling and, regrettably, won.  However, the fight is far from over, as lawyers for the agency and those who love the mountain continue to argue against and for the trees, respectively.

The threats to the Chuckanuts are real and extend well beyond Blanchard Mountain.  If we don't address them, we will lose what we all love about this one-of-a-kind urban wilderness.  As the threats intensify, we'll need to be ready.  The Chuckanut Mountains Park District remains the best possible tool for addressing a wide range of concerns, from restoring habitats and fixing trails, to educating our kids about the outdoors, protecting private property, maintaining healthy streams, even helping to clean up Puget Sound.  Keep on reading for a summary of the many great things the Chuckanut Mountains Park District can do!

We will be back.  So please stay tuned! 

If you would like to volunteer or learn more about the park district proposal, click the Contact Us button to the left.



CMPD Advisory Committee Meetings
No regular meetings are currently scheduled.


UPDATE:  Both the Whatcom and Skagit County Boundary Review Boards met on March 6, 2008 to consider the CMPD.  The Skagit BRB received an earful from a well organized opposition that relies on hearsay and exaggeration to frighten voters.  The next day, the BRB moved to pull the rug out from under Skagit County voters by denying them a chance to vote on the issue later this year.  We believe that the BRB's role was not to react to either proponents or opponents, but rather to review the proposal under the criteria provided for in state law (the BRB found that the CMPD proposal was generally consistent with those criteria).  Thus we are concerned that the BRB issued an improper decision.   This left us no choice but to challenge this decision so that the voters retain the right to decide the issue for themselves.  Also at the Skagit BRB hearing, the CMPD Advisory Committee offered to address concerns, even if it meant adjusting the south boundary of the CMPD.  The BRB acknowledged they had the authority to modify the boundaries, but then refused to explore reasonable options.

The Whatcom BRB delayed processing of a routine environmental checklist for many long months.  When the BRB requested assistance from consultants to process the checklist, no one responded.  We asked the Whatcom County Superior Court to intervene and the judge agreed that timing was a critical issue if we are to get the CMPD proposal on the fall ballot this year.  He ruled in early May that the Whatcom BRB must essentially complete its SEPA determination by early June.   Once SEPA was complete, we were hopeful the Whatcom BRB would expedite its work as outlined by the legislature and forward the proposal to the county auditor so that the voters can have their say.  Unfortunately, the BRB chose to duck its responsibility under state law and made a preliminary decision to deny the CMPD proposal on May 15th.  The Whatcom BRB did not even hold a public hearing, which is not only an affront to the voters and residents of the CMPD, but is in violation of state law.  The BRB was to finalize its decision at a special meeting on May 22, then postponed that action to June 12 after receiving a letter from the CMPD attorney addressed to the attorney for the Whatcom BRB.  That letter outlines the concerns of the CMPD Advisory Committee and is available at the link below. Nevertheless, the BRB formally issued its denial which we have challenged in court in order to protect the rights of the voters to decide the issue.

In the meantime, a hopelessly misinformed opposition continues to rant against the CMPD.  Kindest regards to those who have stayed with us through the fray!  Be assured that we are not at all cowed by the hysterics or the complainers, and will continue our fight to protect this place we all know and love as the Chuckanuts.

CMPD letter to Whatcom BRB May 22 2008

Where are we in the process?

Petition signatures were validated by the county auditors in 2007--t
hanks to our volunteers who worked so hard to accompish this goal!

The Boundary Review Boards (BRBs) of both Whatcom and Skagit Counties were required to review the proposed boundaries of the CMPD and hold public hearings (only Skagit has held such a hearing).  However, meetings were delayed for months due to difficulties with environmental review. The counties were unable to determine what agency should handle the environmental review for the CMPD proposal.  The Washington Department of Ecology stepped in and instructed the Whatcom BRB to take the lead, even though the BRB had no expertise on staff to handle the work.  The Department of Ecology offered little assistance and seemed content to watch the Whatcom BRB struggle with its work.

We hope many friends of the Chuckanuts can attend future public meetings and show their support.  Given the recent tenor of the opposition and all the misinformation** that's been floated to public, this is your chance to hear it all first hand.  Your presence will help us secure lasting protection and a sustainable future for the Chuckanut Mountains.

**Some petition signers apparently received calls or letters asking them to withdraw their support for the park district. If you have been contacted by any such individuals or groups claiming to support conservation, or if you have any questions regarding the information you may be receiving, please contact us. (The information below may also help clarify elements of the park district proposal that are being readily distorted by a few individuals.)


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Important facts to know about the proposed

Chuckanut Mountains Park District


·       The CMPD would protect the most critical open space for all to enjoy for all time. It is the only public or private entity that can take on this important task. If not protected, much of what we enjoy now could be lost in the next 25 years.

·       The CMPD would enhance Stewardship of all public lands in the Chuckanuts. It can build trails, protect and restore habitats, help manage public use, improve water quality & land management, and even contribute financially to wildland fire response and public safety education.

·       Preservation of unique and sensitive areas along with active Outdoor Recreation has become a pillar of the Northwest Economy. The CMPD can create jobs, improve health care, and strengthen local business. This will increase revenue to counties and other districts.

·       Skagit County & the DNR control Blanchard logging. The CMPD can only buy the timber rights or the land itself from a willing seller.

·       The tax rate will be set by the voters in the Park District. If the voters approve the District, the petition sets the rate at 25 cents per $1000 of assessed valuation.  The CMPD will have the ability to leverage state and federal grants.  (For comparison, the Bellingham Greenways levy is about 57 cents per $1,000; school district levies are often $2 to $3 or more.)

·       The CMPD will only control land that it buys from willing sellers. By law, it will have no control over other private or public land. Nor will it be condeming anyone's property! (Rumors about the park district using eminent domain to acquire property are untrue and are being spread by a few vocal opponents who are simply trying to frighten voters into voting against the park district.)

·          All areas of the Park District will be fairly represented on the Park District Commission and in district plans and implementation.  Public participation is paramount!

The Chuckanuts are valued by all of us:

  • They connect neighbors between Bow and Bellingham who care because we share the same environment.
  • Citizens of Skagit and Whatcom have joined together to form the Chuckanut Mountains Park District, united by the common desire to protect this unique landscape for future generations.

  • The proposed Chuckanut Mountains Park District is not a park, but a citizen-governed special purpose district, like a fire, school or water district.

  • Its purpose is to serve as our community’s voice for land conservation and stewardship.

  • Get Involved - be informed. Please join in our ongoing public meetings and be part of local democracy in action.

The Chuckanuts
Along the northerly reach of Washington's inland sea, not far south of Canada, and at the western extremity of the North Cascades foothills, lies an exceptional coastal forest environment. The hills, ridges, and valleys which make up the Chuckanuts are as gentle as they are dramatic.In the core of the range, rocky wooded ridges flanked by sheer sandstone walls follow long smooth arcs that reveal the landscape's geologic history. Across the Oyster Creek valley to the south, rocky knolls and high cliffs comprised of very old metamorphic rock look across maturing second-growth forests to the Salish Sea beyond.

To the northeast, the gentler, more recently logged slopes of Lookout and Galbraith Mountains form the eastern backdrop of the surrounding urban area. Small streams, waterfalls, wetlands, six sizeable lakes, and more than a dozen year-around ponds are nestled within an extensive mixed coniferous forest ecosystem that almost completely blankets the Chuckanuts.

Sunset.jpg

Although nearly all of it has been logged at one time or another over the past centuries, and a substantial portion is still managed for commercial forestry, the area remains rich in wildlife habitat, supporting a diversity of birds, mammals, amphibians, fish and other terrestrial and aquatic life.

Throughout
the Chuckanuts, many come and go on foot, on wheels, on horseback and even by air (hang-gliders launch at the south end) and find themselves immersed in the Chuckanut experience, often near a stream, a lake, or along the rugged marine coastline with outstanding views of land, water, and wildlife.  Year-round opportunities for many forms of outdoor recreation and nature study are plentiful and all are within close proximity to urban and rural populations.

Today, the Chuckanuts are home to a significant human population, represented by thousands of homes and several established communities that surround these hills on all sides. 
Bellingham, to the north, with 65,000 people is a unique urban area in that it retains significant natural habitat areas and trails systems within its boundaries that are well connected to the Chuckanuts.

© Paul Anderson

While portions of the Chuckanuts are already protected in public ownership or generous conservation easements, much of it is not.  Many of the streams, wetlands, lakes, shorelines, forests and ridgelines that the public has used for decades are in private ownership and can and will likely be developed or logged if not protected.  One of the challenges we face over the next 20 years is retaining critical elements of those natural systems and connections while facing tremendous growth pressures.


The Mission

The Chuckanut Mountains Park District’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in the Chuckanuts through the acquisition and stewardship of sensitive natural areas, streams, wetlands, shorelines, and to form continuous greenbelts that connect our urban areas with the
Chuckanut Mountains ecosystem.  CMPD’s lands will be managed to protect and enhance their natural, undeveloped character while accommodating many low impact outdoor recreational and environmental educational pursuits.

The Chuckanut Mountains Park District will:

1. Preserve Open Space through outright acquisition and purchase of conservancy easements;
2. Limit logging, mining and land clearing through purchase of natural resource rights;
3. Protect water quality of wetlands, streams, lakes and tidelands through conservation and restoration;
4. Develop nonmotorized trails and expand outdoor recreational opportunities;
5. Accommodate outdoor educational pursuits and programs;
6. Enhance coordination among various public and private entities that own property in the Chuckanuts; and
7. Distribute benefits equitably throughout the District.


Sources and Uses of Funds
The potential sources of funds and in-kind donation for the proposed district would be:
1. Levies
2. Matching Grants
3. Real Estate Excise Tax
4. Impact Fees
5. Issue Bonds
6. Land Donations
7. Monetary Donations     

The proposed use of the funds would be for at least 80% of the revenue to go toward acquisition and stewardship of environmentally significant properties and easements, approximately 10% toward administration and coordination of district activities and volunteers, and 10% to the development and restoration of trails and natural areas, and outdoor education.

The proposed District could:
 1. Acquire property outright
 2. Acquire conservancy easements
 3. Acquire natural resource, logging and mining rights
 4. Develop and restore trails, shoreline access, streams, lakes and other natural areas
 5. Accommodate outdoor educational pursuits

Note that some who are opposed to the park district are spreading misinformation concerning eminent domain and the condemnation of property to be acquired by the park district. The Advisory Committee has been very clear that we are strongly opposed to the use of eminent domain, which is strictly regulated under state law. We cannot imagine any circumstance in which eminent domain would be invoked to aquire land from an unwilling seller. Such a strategy would be political suicide for the district and is certainly no way to build support for protecting what we all love about the Chuckanuts. Furthermore, we have not been able to identify a single instance in the state of Washington in which a park district condemned someone's property. It simply doesn't happen. Those who are spreading misinformation about eminent domain are simply attempting to frighten voters into voting against the park district. Please don't hesitate to contact the CMPD Advisory Committee if we can answer questions on this or any other subject.

...Where the Cascades Meet the Sea...