County approves Point Whitehorn park purchase

Published on Thu, Sep 11, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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County approves Point Whitehorn park purchase

By Tara Nelson

Residents of Birch Bay and Blaine can look forward to the development of a new park on Point Whitehorn complete with trails, lookouts and wildlife viewing opportunities.

In their regular meeting Tuesday, Whatcom County Council approved the purchase of 54.1 acres of land from the Whatcom Land Trust (WLT) for $375,000. The area will be turned into the Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve, a sanctuary for the area’s wildlife, and maintained by Whatcom County. Funding for the purchase will come from the county’s conservation futures fund, created by voters in 1996 to preserve natural parks within the county’s urban growth areas.

“Public access to saltwater is one of the county’s highest priorities,” said Gordon Scott, a senior conservationist with the WLT. “We figured this would be a great place for that.”

Scott said the area is also home to several sensitive species such as eagles and falcons as well as extensive eel grass beds that support herring spawn that feed salmon.

As part of the sale agreement, the organization has constructed a 1-mile trail system, four viewing areas with unbroken views of the Gulf and San Juan archipelagos and a 30-car parking area that will provide public access to the site and 1,900 feet of beach access. Construction of the trail network is scheduled to be completed in November.

The deal was part of a land swap between WLT and the Trillium Corporation last year for 43 acres of waterfront acreage near BP. WLT had originally acquired the land from B.C. Hydro in 2006 for $1 million, when its plans to build a natural gas pipeline across northern Whatcom County fell through.