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.
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
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.
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--thanks 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.)
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
The Chuckanuts are valued by all of us:
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.
Involved - be informed. Please join in our ongoing public meetings and be part
of local democracy in action.
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.
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.
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. 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 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.
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:
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:
Acquire property outright
2. Acquire conservancy easements
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
the Cascades Meet the Sea...