A newly formed advocacy group in the North Cascade foothills is growing a vision of connecting Bellingham to Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Bay to Baker Trail will enhance outdoor recreation and transportation options for residents and visitors. They need your help. Take the survey to help them create the case for an exciting new trail from Bellingham Bay to Mt Baker.
The Mt Baker Highway, also known as Washington State Route (SR) 542 stretches 58 miles from sea level in Bellingham, Washington to an elevation of 5,140 feet at Artist’s Point – a scenic overlook located above timberline that on clear days treats visitors to sublime views of Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan.
Since 1992 Whatcom County has had plans on the books to build a trail from Bellingham to Artist’s Point. Dubbed the Bay to Baker Trail, progress on its completion has been slow. Right-of-way has been acquired in some segments, but numerous environmental and human barriers remain.
A group of residents and business owners has banded together in an attempt to urge action on the Bay to Baker Trail. John Adam, owner of Glacier Ski Shop, believes that biking and walking infrastructure will not only make the area more attractive to visitors, but will also provide residents with a safe option to getting in a vehicle and burning fossil fuels when they need a quart of milk. Paul Engel, who owns Wild and Scenic River Tours added that, “Hundreds of reports show that when trails for biking and walking are created in a community it brings nothing but good – the population is healthier, vehicular traffic is reduced, property values are stable and local businesses see more traffic. Everyone benefits”
There’s a strong need for the trail as SR 542 is oftentimes narrow and crowded with traffic and feels unsafe for biking and walking. Due to its beauty, the highway attracts heavy traffic during the winter ski and summer hiking seasons. RVs, families coming up to recreate in SUVs, sports cars, fast-moving sport motorcycles, and road cyclists all share this road. To add to the mix, the residential communities located on the highway lack options for residents to safely walk or ride bikes to community destinations. At the local middle school if a child shows up to school with their bike they are sent home due to the hazard that riding on the road represents.
More outdoor recreation opportunities are needed to support the local economies. The mild winter that the Pacific Northwest just experienced sent a shock through the small, tourist dependent communities in the shadow of Mt Baker. Businesses closed and residents watched as skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers, who bring much needed revenue to the area, disappeared. It was a call to action as residents and business owners realized that perhaps some diversification of recreational opportunities was in order.
While a small group of locals have concerns about the emerging trail effort, the vast majority are for it. One of those is Marty Grabijas, a product developer in the outdoor industry. According to Grabijas, “What we have here is so special. The access to big wilderness and high alpine environments is incredible. We have an opportunity to engineer the Mt Baker Highway corridor for the future. With a multi-use trail we can reduce vehicle congestion, and provide residents and visitors with a safe way to get around on foot or on a bike. My motive for being involved is to create safe places to walk and ride for everyone. The Mt Baker area is visually stunning, and with a safe pathway in the highway corridor a bike is the perfect vehicle for visiting services in one of the several small towns, or connecting to Forest Service roads and exploring the area.”
This citizens group is in the due diligence stage of forming a bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian advocacy organization. Part of that process is showing a want and need for a multi-use trail by gauging interest of residents, visitors and potential visitors. By participating in their survey you will provide important information about outdoor recreational interests to secure funding in Whatcom County’s 2017-18 budget to make portions of the Bay to Baker Trail a reality.
Regardless if you have been to the Mt Baker area, your feedback is valuable.