By Oliver Lazenby
Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 (BBBPRD2) is moving forward with its plan to create a trail for walkers and bikers between the Canadian border and Point Whitehorn.
Securing an easement between Lincoln Road and Drayton Harbor Road, just west of California Creek, is a crucial next step to the project, which is officially called the Bay to Bay International Trail. The trail committee already secured two nearby easements and they thought the third one would fall into place.
“The easement in the middle was going to be no problem,” said Ted Morris, park district director. “Well, I’m still working on that.”
The 9-mile trail would go from Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve to Blaine on back roads, off-road trails and improved shoulders suitable for walkers.
From Point Whitehorn, the trail heads north through Birch Bay State Park to Birch Bay Drive. The route would then continue on the shoulder of Harborview Road from. Once easements are in place, the route would head east on Lincoln Road for a quarter of a mile and then go off-road across private properties toward Drayton Harbor and across California Creek. It would then continue across Dakota Creek and connect with trails in Blaine.
To build support and inspire stakeholders for the next phases of the project, the park and recreation district held a roundtable discussion about the trail on February 4 at Birch Bay Bible Community Church.
Gary Albright, architect of a trail network on the Oregon coast at Bay City, Oregon, spoke at the event. Albright directs the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum and was instrumental in developing the Kilchis Point Park Reserve, a 200-acre natural area and trail managed by the museum.
The projects are much different in scope but Albright used techniques for raising money and recruiting volunteers that he thought would be helpful for the Blaine to Birch Bay trail.
Albright recommended applying for any grant that can be stretched to fit the project and working with anyone who wants to help.
Volunteers did most of the labor on the 200-acre Kilchis Point Reserve and Albright recruited everyone from children to inmates to help with the project. At Kilchis, school classes helped replant streamside areas and inmates from nearby South Fork Forest Camp, a minimum security work camp, built trails, boardwalks and signs in the reserve.
“The replanting was done almost entirely by children and prisoners,” Albright said. “But not always at the same time.”
Albright also stressed the importance of patience. BBBPRD2 started working on the trail in 2007, Morris said.
“It does take a lot of patience and that’s where I think the similarities are between here and there,” Albright said. “If anyone sat down to do a project like this and knew everything they were in for, they’d be crazy to start.”
The roundtable discussion drew interest from recreation and transportation agencies north and south of the proposed trail.
To the north, the Bay to Bay International Trail will connect with a network of trails that could potentially extend to Vancouver, B.C. A group of White Rock and South Surrey residents hope to move the busy rail line that goes along the water in those cities and convert it into a waterside trail.
Heidi Holmes, program manager for BBBPRD2, already guides walks from the Peace Arch to downtown White Rock and back, she said.
From White Rock a trail could eventually continue into Tsawwassen and then to Vancouver, said Eric Stepura, White Rock’s director of leisure services, at the roundtable.
“It would be a dream to connect that trail system from South Surrey and White Rock into the U.S. border and Blaine and beyond,” he said.
To the south, it’s not hard to connect from Birch Bay to Ferndale and eventually Bellingham, said Mary Anderson, transportation planner with Whatcom Council of Governments.