Speak up about forestland codes
The Anacortes Planning Commission is currently reviewing Draft 2 of revisions to the Critical Areas Regulations. I am concerned that this document does not sufficiently address the importance of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands to our community.
There is no language that describes the magnitude of the forestlands, their importance to our city, the richness of the habitats, or the fact that many critical areas such as lakes and wetlands are contained within the forestlands and together they constitute an amazingly diverse and irreplaceable ecosystem that must be protected.
Our forestlands are as important to Anacortes as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon are on a national level – perhaps even more so, since they constitute such a large area of our small city.
I consider the ACFL so important that it deserves a separate section within the Critical Areas Regulations, and I have urged city staff to develop such a section and present it to the Planning Commission for inclusion in the new ordinance.
The code should include much more specific detail about goals and policies for the ACFL. (The new zoning regulations include minutiae such as allowing mailboxes in the front setback. Surely we could protect our forestlands by providing a more extensive ACFL section in the Critical Areas Regulations. Isn’t the ACFL more important than a mailbox location?)
The ACFL is an irreplaceable asset, created and protected by the efforts of hundreds of citizens, city staff, and elected officials who developed the governing regulations over the years. We need to be sure that the new code revisions continue and even enhance that protection.
We’re all busy, and it takes time to be involved in city planning efforts, but there is still time for citizens to view Draft 2 of the Critical Areas Regulations on the city website, submit comments, and speak at the Planning Commission meetings on Dec. 4, 11, and 18.
Save our SHIP and the ACFL
Revisions to the Critical Areas Ordinance proposed by Planning Department staff would dramatically reduce protection for local environmental gems, including the Anacortes Community Forest Lands and the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve.
The proposed rules redefine bicycling as “passive” recreation, which would be allowed without restrictions in both wetlands and wetland buffers. The existing rules do not permit bicycles in wetlands, period.
This change would facilitate construction of a bicycle skills park atop the erstwhile toxic waste dump located in the ACFL near Avenue A, a pet project of our Parks Department that would transform a tranquil grassland oasis into a pestilential source of noise, litter and flashing lights guaranteed to drive away every bird and animal from the area, not to mention people who like a quiet walk in the woods.
Planning staff also proposes a variable buffer width approach to all wetlands, including rare Category I wetlands like SHIP and Cannery Pond. This standard would reduce the buffer width from 110 feet to 75 feet adjacent to SHIP in the area close to Edwards Way deemed to be “low density development”.
The “low density” designation is likely to apply only until the abutting parcel of land now for sale is developed, but meanwhile the new CAO makes a 35-foot strip of land made available for another pet project, a bicycle trail connecting the ferry terminal access road to Edwards Way routed in large part through the SHIP wetland buffer. Until the city secures easements through Lovric’s, the numerous private properties between Lovric’s and Kiwanis Park, this will be a trail to nowhere.
Furthermore, the new draft Parks Department comprehensive plan talks about to connecting the trail through Kiwanis Park to Sixth Street “somehow.” A trail whose mere existence in a wetland buffer will have deleterious effects on critical bird and mammal breeding habitat in SHIP should not be built until those problems are solved, if ever.
Residents concerned about the attack on our precious critical areas should make their views known to the Planning Commission through public comments on the CAO, at public meetings on Dec. 4 and 11 or at the public hearing on Dec. 18.
Save Our SHIP and the ACFL.
Bike park not right choice
I want to remind people that the proposed Bike Skills Park at the old dump site on 37th and A in the Forest Lands is still a very active proposal. This is a multiphased project that will change this site permanently. It will open up that part of the Forest Lands to a new kind of recreational use.
The Anacortes Forest Lands were created to preserve the forest. Thousands of people donated time and money to make this a reality. There are now almost 3,000 acres in the city of Anacortes with multiuse trails for motorcycles, bicycles, horses and hikers. This is unique and rare in a small city and is loved by many and well used.
Currently the Forest Lands are at a critical time. The summer droughts and other weather changes have created a more fragile environment. This is not the time to increase the use. The Forest Lands are being studied because of concerns about the slow death of some trees and vegetation. This is the time to protect the Forest Lands and focus on preservation.
I am opposed to turning this site into a park for a group of people that claim this is the only site they could find after many years of looking all over Anacortes. If that is the case, maybe a Bike Park isn’t appropriate for this city. Do we have to turn this area into a theme park for a small group of people to play?
I am personally opposed. If you have concerns let the Planning Commission, City Council and mayor know. Help preserve this unique treasure — the Anacortes Forest Lands.
Thanks to those supporting
On Nov. 2, Friends of the Forest and close to 300 supporters celebrated over 30 years of outreach, education and stewardship in service of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. The event, which took place at the Anacortes Port Transit Shed, saw people eating, dancing and bidding their way through the evening, ultimately raising about $61,000 for the Friends’ educational programming. The money that was raised will go toward our established third and seventh-grade programming and Forest Discovery Day Camp, as well as new and exciting activities, including a Kindergarten program that will kick off this spring.
We are incredibly lucky to be a part of such an incredibly supportive community. Thank you to everyone who helped make this event such a success and to everyone who loves and cares for the ACFL.
Executive Director, Friends of the Forest