A long overdue update to the management plan for the 2,800 acres that make up the Anacortes Community Forest Lands is inching closer to adoption by the Anacortes City Council.
The plan suggests improving restroom availability, adding trails — including some to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards — and expanding the forest lands if adjacent lands become available.
The plan also calls for the closure of Trail 132 because of erosion. The trail runs along the south shore of Little Cranberry Lake.
“While it’s a fun and challenging hike, it’s really become next to impossible for us to maintain,” Anacortes Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Bob Vaux said during a public hearing Monday. “(It) has become really an unsafe and eroded trail.”
Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands Executive Director Asa Deane and Forest Advisory Board member Brian Wetcher spoke Monday in favor of closing the trail.
“I thoroughly endorse the trail closure, which unfortunately is necessary ... not only from the standpoint of the safety of our residents but also for the integrity of the shoreline and the watershed,” Wetcher said.
If the trail is closed, hikers interested in doing a loop around Little Cranberry Lake will be able to do so using alternate routes.
A management plan for the Anacortes Community Forest Lands was last adopted in 2009. A revision was drafted in 2014, but Vaux said its progress stalled as the city dealt with other updates such as to the city’s comprehensive plan.
“It just took this much time to kind of be in the queue just to get in front of the council because they’ve just had so much to work on the last few years,” he said.
Following the public hearing Monday, Mayor Laurie Gere asked the parks department to bring the document back for potential adoption at the next City Council meeting.
While several speakers during the hearing criticized the plan for failing to mention climate change, members of the City Council and Forest Advisory Board encouraged passage of the plan now with direction that modifications be made during the life of the plan, which is expected to be updated every five years.
“It’s a good document ... We can continue to refine it moving forward,” City Council member Christine Cleland-McGrath said.
Topics that council members said need future attention include clarifying the largely prohibited commercial use of the forest lands and addressing a recent interest in e-bikes.
“The fact that we have these 3,000 acres of woods to me is a real positive statement in this time of climate change,” Vaux said. “How can we monitor the health and promote the health while learning about the larger impacts? I look to that to be a central topic for the next couple of years of work on this plan.”
Parks and Recreation Director Jonn Lunsford said when it comes to commercial uses, the city generally rejects requests for everything from filming to running events in an effort to ensure access for residents.
“You don’t have to pay to access the forest lands. It’s open to everyone ... That’s the approach we have used,” he said.