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Mount Baker Experience chimes in on the new Lake Whatcom park

By Ian Ferguson
Mount Baker Experience

“The combination of old trees and proximity to the coast makes the land around Lake Whatcom some of the last prime marbled murrelet habitat in the Puget Sound area.” -Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest science and conservation director


In the steep hills above the eastern shore of Lake Whatcom in January 1983, an old abandoned logging road gave way during a heavy rainstorm. Mud and logs slid and piled behind a county bridge below, damming Smith Creek. The rain continued and the pressure mounted until the jam burst, releasing a torrent of water and debris that destroyed houses and swept 80 acres into Lake Whatcom, the source of drinking water for Bellingham and much of Whatcom County.

Efforts to clean up the debris resulted in flooding along Whatcom Creek, and the costs of the disaster topped $12 million (nearly $30 million in today’s currency). The Smith Creek landslide created waves of concern about the lake and its surroundings that still resonate, and those waves were the unifying force behind a recent land transfer known locally as “the reconveyance.” The act transferred ownership of 8,884 acres of land surrounding Lake Whatcom from the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Whatcom County.

As a result, two huge swaths of what had been timberland on a 60-year harvest cycle are now the seventh largest locally managed park in the nation, an ecological gem of future old growth forest and a potential canvas for a world-class trail system. . . .

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