Beautiful Park

By Guest writerOn Jan 26, 2013

Guest writer Dan Remsen writes for the group favoring the Park District on Bellingham's south side.

There is a beautiful forested hillside visible from most anywhere in the southwest corner of Bellingham. For more than two decades it has been repeatedly threatened with development. And, repeatedly, neighbors around it have risen to defend and preserve the ecological treasure that it is. As Chuckanut Ridge, Hundred Acre Wood, or just “the woods” it is well known, and a great number of people who live around this beautiful, mature forest and the wetlands nestled inside feel very passionately about their future.

Between now and February 12th, voters who live nearest what we now call the Chuckanut Community Forest will have the opportunity to secure it as a city park forever.

In the fall of 2011, with the property finally available for purchase, our City Council voted to purchase it using a combination of Greenways III southside acquisition funds, southside Park Impact Fees, and a $3.2 million inter-fund loan from the Greenways III maintenance endowment. The city has been clear that the loan must be repaid or a significant portion of the property would need to be sold to do so.

A group of southside residents organized to develop a plan to repay the loan and save ALL of the property. After exploring numerous financing options, we felt that the only feasible way to do it in a timely fashion was to form a Metropolitan Park District (MPD). We just couldn’t kick this can down the road and risk losing this community asset.

The proposed MPD is called the Chuckanut Community Forest District (CCFD). The District encompasses the area west of I-5 and south of the Western campus or, the South, Fairhaven, Edgemoor, and most of the Happy Valley and South Hill neighborhoods. This past summer, needing 1100 petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, we collected almost 1700. Support, not surprisingly, was abundant and enthusiastic.

The ballot proposition proposes that the district be created for the purpose of levying a property tax, only inside the district, of $28/$100,000 assessed value for 10 years, or $70/year for a $250,000 house. This would pay off the loan and enable full and permanent protection of this park.

MPDs have existed at various times around the state since 1907. It is a great democratic tool written into Washington state law that has enabled communities to choose to band together to achieve their common parks and open space goals. Some have built pools, some recreation centers, and some have developed parks. In North Bend, the Si View MPD has seen deep voter support each time they have come back to the voters. Surely they have earned community trust and built support to achieve that. That is the record of every MPD we researched. They are grassroots democracy and community self-determination at their best and a model I believe in.

I think we can do as well here. As a homeowner and as a candidate to serve as a district commissioner, I am committed to seeing to it that this MPD performs exactly as described in the petition, on the ballot and on our website ( Myself, 5 other commission candidates, a hundred or more volunteers, and our many, many endorsers and donors, who have worked for years seeking the preservation of this property, now believe we are almost there. But, we need your support, too.

What this boils down to is a simple choice. If you think this land should be sold and built on, then vote no. But, if we value our beautiful setting, if we want this land preserved as a city park, if we as a community would rather leave to the future an ecological treasure than a subdivision, then now is the time to act on those values. Please vote yes for the forest, vote yes for parks and healthy recreation, vote yes for wetlands and the salmon they support. Please Vote Yes for the Chuckanut Community Forest District.

About Guest writer

Writers • Member since Jun 15, 2008

Comments by Readers

Delaine Clizbe

Jan 26, 2013

Mr. Remsen with all due respect I don’t think that everything you say in this article is true.  Since John Servais did post a pdf of the actual ballot it is not hard for folks to see that they are not voting on a tax but are voting only to create the Metropolitan Park District.  The commissioners, after the Metropolitan Park District is voted in, get to decide how much the actual levy is.

Pay close attention folks!  You are not voting on a tax!  This vote will only create the district.  You will not get to decide how much the actual tax levy amount will be.


Hue Beattie

Jan 26, 2013

I have lived in
this area since 1973. My son grew up here and developed his love of nature in these very woods. The flora and fauna only gets better as time passes. I now walk with a cane but still enjoy going into the flater areas. Saw some woodpecker homes there this week. I have been advising the committee and know the candidates will do what they promise. Thank you Dan for your post.


Alex McLean

Jan 29, 2013

I am opposed to this Park District.

Somebody needs to explain to me how this expensive outlay of my funds benefits the thousands of people living in Happy Valley, which the proponents benevolently and mysteriously decided to add to their District, when we are nearly 3 miles away from the property. With all of the trails benefits already ensured by the City’s acquisition of this property, why do I need to protect YOUR neighborhood from a bit of development when MY neighborhood is being engulfed by it? Why do you need the WHOLE property, all the way to Chuckanut Drive, when the habitat connectivity is already amputated by the housing across that busy road?

Thanks for offering to troll our wallets, and for keeping us bound by the property acquisition moratorium that was imposed upon us for years, but your offer of economic injustice seems profoundly unappealing. Happy Valley, the densest neighborhood in the city, gets nothing by helping you purchase a few more acres—of the thousands that surround it already—which are located amidst the wealthiest precincts in the county.

Go green with your own green, as you have repeatedly said you would, and stop clobbering this city with your demands for ever-more cash and ever-diminishing rewards for this pet project of yours.


Gerry Wilbour

Jan 30, 2013

Dan, Thanks for the this great article and the one in the Herald.  And thanks for being willing to run and serve as a commissioner.  This has been a long process, it great to be a part of a community that is willing to step forward and solve it’s own problems.  As you say, we have looked at all of the funding options, and this is the one that really works. 

Selling a portion of the Chuckanut Community Forest property into a challenging real estate market to pay off the loan to the Greenways Endowment Fund would be a budgetary sight of hand.  Even if the endowment fund may be made whole by this means, the taxpayers would end up footing the bill for it’s subsequent development though other budgets and taxes. The taxpayers would simply be paying for a development rather than a park, with the nearby neighbors picking up the greatest potion of the tab. 

I’ve worked in a number of areas that have Park Districts.  They are very grounded in the communities that they serve and they stay focused on the mission they were created to do.  I would much rather pay for a Park than a development.


Rob Stratton

Feb 03, 2013

How about instead of using government to steal money from many who don’t use or support non development, why not just buy it yourselves?


Dudley Evenson

Feb 05, 2013

Since 1990, we have worked to save the Chuckanut Forest. We have made many videos on it. Hundreds of people have devoted years of their lives to keep this precious urban forest from being developed. Watch the videos linked below to learn why this forest is so important to our community. (only Southside Bellingham residents vote). Thanks for voting YES by Feb 12 to keep this forest in tact and from being subdivided.  Remember - people tried to stop Central Park in New York City from being saved.  Now it is the saving grace of that city.
Please watch these video clips from ‘Saving the 100 Acre Wood: A Treasure Beyond Measure’ made between 1990 and 2005.  Thank you. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

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