Land trust and local district get help from state and federal sources
WHATCOM — The Whatcom Land Trust, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Ecology, has received a grant funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Coastal Wetlands Program to purchase and restore four properties totaling 54.66 acres of coastal wetland habitat and 6,500 feet of shoreline. All four properties are situated along California Creek, a major tributary stream to Drayton Harbor of Blaine.
The Whatcom Land Trust is one of seven Washington state projects that received a total of $5 million from the Coastal Wetlands Program. Those seven were among 23 approved nationwide totaling $17 million.
The federal grant program favors wetlands of rare types within an ecoregion, including specially recognized wetland functions — especially those in decline or threatened with destruction. Grants provide up to 75 percent of the cost of wetland acquisition and protection.
The land trust currently owns 52.5 acres at the mouth of California Creek where it empties into Drayton Harbor. This property has high conservation values due to its location, ecological makeup and future role as a public park along the shoreline. The California Creek sub-basin makes up 40% of the total Drayton Harbor watershed, meaning restoration will benefit water quality in Drayton Harbor and impact Whatcom County on a larger scale.
Marine estuaries are an irreplaceable natural resource that provide many benefits including wildlife habitat, improved biodiversity and water quality.
Since the initial 11.5-acre land purchase in June 2017 and second adjacent parcel purchase in December 2018, the land trust has completed significant salmon habitat restoration and invasive species removal. Two barns were demolished by Moceri Construction and other improvements were made on 12.5 acres of lower California Creek.
This was done in partnership with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and Whatcom Conservation District, in part due to a grant from the Rose Foundation’s Stewardship & Mitigation Fund and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service funding. An additional partner is Washington Sea Grant in monitoring for the invasive European green crab.
Concurrently, Blaine/Birch Bay Parks & Recreation District #2 (BBPRD2) applied for and was awarded two grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office to assist in park infrastructure and public access, including a kayak/canoe launch, parking, restrooms, trails and eventual link between Birch Bay State Park and Peace Arch Park.
Now this beautiful and ecologically important place where people meet nature is permanently protected, and closer to beginning the next phase of its life as BBPRD2’s California Creek Estuary Park.
District director Ted Morris said he thanks local 42nd District Reps. Sharon Shewmake and Luanne Van Werven for help in securing a grant from the state Recreation Conservation Office for this project.
With hopes of opening in 2023, the day-use park will have a parking lot, restroom, kayak launch and hiking/biking trails. It will also serve as a trailhead for the district’s Bay to Bay Trail from Birch Bay to Blaine that they are working on, Morris said.
The additional 54.66 acres of coastal wetland habitat will require a stewardship plan that will provide more restoration and community engagement opportunities, as well as permanent protections for one of the most beautiful coastal areas in one of Whatcom County’s fastest growing communities.
When plans are in place and it is safe for people to be together outdoors, stewardship work party opportunities will be announced on the land trust’s website (whatcomlandtrust.org) or in an upcoming e-newsletter.