BirchBay State Park considered to be one of the state’smost popular parks

Published on Thu, Jun 23, 2005 by ara Nelson

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Birch Bay State Park considered to be one of the state’s most popular parks

By Tara Nelson

Lynden residents Agneta and Paul Pernevi said they enjoy Birch Bay State Park because of its 8,255 feet of beaches, the view of the Canadian Gulf Islands and the fact it has not been commercialized – so far.

This past Monday, the two Swedish immigrants, along with friends, Jack and Jeanette VanLoo, also of Lynden, practiced their bocce game, an Italian ball game that measures skill in determining distance, and snacked on Swedish “grandfather snap cheese,” homemade cinnamon buns and wine as the sun set over Birch Bay.

“We just love it here,” Agneta said. “It’s the best.”

But the Pernevis are not the only ones who love the park. In fact, the 194-acre park with 170 campsites is one of the most popular parks in Washington State – at least according to Ted Morris, the park manager there.

Morris’s campground attendance record counted approximately 900,000 visitors last year. The estimate measured campers as opposed to vehicles, a method Morris said is much more accurate than just counting vehicles, as many parks do.

Morris said he thinks the biggest draw to the park is the beach access.
“We’ve got some of the best clamming and crabbing when it’s open in the Puget Sound area,” he said. “We fluctuate between the second and third largest (park) for clam digging according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

The other two state parks are Potlatch and Dosewallips state parks on the Olympic Peninsula near the Hood Canal, he said.

In addition, the increase in the number of visitors to the park has meant an increase in revenue.

Morris said although the enactment of day use fees initially slowed visitation, those numbers are starting to come back and, because the park is more financially self-sustaining, this has allowed it more freedom to spend the revenue on improvement projects.

“We had many parks that were constructed during the ’60s and ’70s and they need some upkeep, they also need improvements,” he said. “It’s been nice to have this vehicle parking revenue to do that.”

Morris said projects include new roofs on buildings, new picnic tables and fire rings, mirrors and soap in bathrooms, a new bike path along Helweg Road, new showers, faucets and drinking fountains and a 12 by 16-foot cabin for the Junior Ranger Program, a children’s environmental education program, he said.

“We were able to do a lot of things that we’ve never been able to do before because we operated on a shoe-string budget,” Morris said. “So that part’s good. A lot of people don’t know that a lot of that money in vehicle parking fees is coming back to the parks which they like to use.”

The Pernevis, however, said they don’t mind paying the day use fee.
“In Sweden, we had taxes that pay for this kind of thing,” Agneta said. “So, we’re used to it. It’s just a different way of paying for it. People don’t realize it all comes out the same.”