Fairhaven Forest Saved for Future
With the help of WTA volunteers, Recreation Northwest and Bellingham Parks and Recreation, the lush utopia of cedar, willow, fir and cottonwood trees known as the Fairhaven Forest is a little bit more accessible.
On the south side of Bellingham lies a little slice of nature that’s enjoyed by local neighbors and far-flung visitors alike. A forested utopia of cedar, willow, fir and cottonwood trees and a fern-filled abundance of wetland and marshy areas, this property acts as nature’s filter, helping to moderate storm and floodwater runoff before returning it to Padden and Chuckanut creeks.
This area has been known by many names, including Hundred Acre Woods, Chuckanut Ridge and, for a time, Fairhaven Highlands, as it was considered for residential development. Through heroic efforts, local residents formed a Metropolitan Park District in 2013 to levy a small property tax to pay back the City of Bellingham, who had purchased the property, thus ending 20 years of community struggle to preserve this special place.
Recreation Northwest, a local nonprofit, worked with Bellingham Parks and Recreation to rally volunteers and a private contractor to construct a beautiful new access trail and bridge spanning a fragile wetland, connecting the existing Fairhaven Park to the forest.
WTA is proud to be part of the next step, replacing a steep and slippery “fall line” trail—meaning it runs straight downhill and erodes quickly—with a trail that has better drainage and greater durability.
WTA volunteers did the work of creating the trail in early February. Former WTA youth volunteer, ambassador, intern and crew leader Jackson Lee, now serving as an AmeriCorps restoration environmental educator with the Bellingham Parks Volunteer Program, has taken a key role in this project. Besides helping to design and present the project for permitting and approval, Jackson led local school groups in removing invasive species and digging up ferns and other native plants to restore the old steep trail section. The school groups helped prep the site for WTA crews and then helped with rehabilitation after the work was finished.
The project is creating a safer connection to this amazing place while providing students and volunteers with a deeper understanding of the impacts of human–nature interaction.
Fairhaven Forest can be accessed from Fairhaven Park on Chuckanut Drive. To learn more about the forest, go to chuckanutcommunityforest.com.