Our Comments on the Bike Skills Course Proposal

To the Friends of the Forest Community, 

 Recently, you may have seen news about a proposal from the Parks and Recreation Department in conjunction with the Fidalgo Trail Riders (FTR) to build a bike skills training course on top of the old city dump located in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands off of A Ave. They see this project as a win-win situation: the city dump, unable to be replanted with trees for at least the next 20 years, if ever, is utilized for additional recreation and FTR, after 17 years and multiple site rejections, is finally able to build a skills course to help riders of all abilities hone their mountain biking skills before hitting the trails. 

 People with concerns about the course, however, see a variety of issues with the old dumpsite as the location. They have cited increased forest usage, habitat destruction, water quality concerns, parking issues, and general misuse of forest land as reasons the site should remain a meadow.

 While we work closely with the City of Anacortes, we are not bound to their opinions as to the best forest land management policies. Our mandate is to speak for the ACFL constituents, human and otherwise. As an organization, we prioritize the healthy use of the forest lands, balancing the preservation of natural forest habitat with the responsible recreational use of a variety of user groups including hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and dirt-bike riders. 

 We share many of the same concerns listed above and ask that responses to the following queries be considered before any definitive action is taken:


  1. Water Quality Testing- according to the recommendations given in the Site Hazard Assesment report, the site is due for another water quality testing this year which can only happen in the wet season when there is seepage. We would like to see the results of this test before the bike course is considered.

  2. Environmental Impact Survey- we feel an environmental impact survey to assess the impact of the new course on the surrounding wetland and forest habitat would provide deeper insight as to the appropriateness of the location.

  3. Parking and Impact Mitigation- there is debate over what kind of increase in use the course would bring. Some have said the course is not a large enough draw to bring in large numbers of people from outside of Anacortes. Others see it as inevitable that more people will come to town to utilize the course, bringing parking issues, greater impact, increased litter, and a larger risk of fire. We believe a written plan as to how the city would deal with an increased number of vehicles on A Ave., as well as what measures would be taken to mitigate concerns around impact and safety, is necessary.

  4. Course Management- it is stated that the course will be managed jointly by the Parks and Recreation Department and the Fidalgo Trail Riders through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FTR. We would like to see the stipulations in the MOU as well as contingency plans should it lapse or lose the support of the Fidalgo Trail Riders.

  5. Comprehensive Timeline- we would like to see a comprehensive timeline proposal laid out showing the implementation of the different phases of the project and providing sufficient time for public comment after any water quality testing and impact survey results are made public.

 We firmly believe in the importance of a healthy balance between preservation, conservation, and recreation. The above information, provided transparently and publicly, is essential before any reasonable consideration can be made regarding the appropriateness and benefit of a bike skills course. We are committed to providing the public with a full and accurate picture with which to voice opinions and ask that the City of Anacortes uphold its commitment to comprehensive processes for the management of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands.

 The procedure that has been followed through this process has resulted in many more questions than answers. While we feel a part of the issue at hand is the process in general, we are equally concerned that the ACFL Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document for decisions regarding the forest, has yet to be passed despite being years overdue. We believe the Comprehensive Plan could provide insight as to whether the park is an acceptable development within the confines of the stated use of the forest land.

 Finally, the question remains as to the feasibility of using other sites for the skills course. We understand that the Fidalgo Trail Riders and the Parks and Recreation Department have been unsuccessful on a variety of occasions in finding a suitable location for the park. The current debate has sparked discourse and support from the community in finding an alternative to the dumpsite and we hope that this may be an opportunity for the people of Anacortes to work together with the Fidalgo Trail Riders to make this a reality. Should the opportunity arise, Friends of the Forest would gladly support the process in any way that we could.

 We would love to hear thoughts from the citizens of Anacortes, Skagit County, and especially from our members. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any thoughts, questions, or concerns that you may have by email at info@friendsoftheacfl.org. You can also come to our office hours at the Depot, 611 R Ave., Tue-Thu 10:00 am- 1:00 pm. 


 Friends of the Forest

Don't Just be Wise... be Firewise!

The increased threat of fire that we’ve seen over the last decade can often leave people feeling frightened and helpless. However there are simple steps you can take that go a long way towards protecting your home should a fire ever break out nearby. Below, Anacortes Fire Department Chief Dave Oliveri lets you know what you can do to stay Firewise:

The Keys to having a Firewise Home:

Firewise Landscaping

Home Ignition Zone: Keep leaves and needles off your roof and deck. Create a fuel-free area within 3-5 feet of your home’s perimeter. From 5 feet to a minimum of 30 feet out, thin and space vegetation, remove dead leaves and needles, prune shrubs and tree limbs. Keep areas around decks, sheds, fences and swing sets clear of debris and vegetation.

Landscaping and Firewise Plants: To prevent fire spread, trim back branches that overhang structures and prune branches of large trees up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground. Remove plants containing resins, oils and waxes; make sure organic mulch is at least 5 feet from structures. Choose Firewise plants- find lists at www.firewise.org.

Be Prepared

Action Plan: Develop, discuss and practice an emergency action plan with everyone in your home. Include details for pets & large animals. Program cell phones with emergency numbers. Know two ways out of your neighborhood and have a predesignated meeting place. Maintain an emergency water source. Always leave if you don’t feel safe- don’t wait to be notified.

Emergency Responder Access: Identify your home and neighborhood with legible, clearly marked street names and numbers. Make your driveway at least 12 feet wise with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope of less than 5 percent to provide access to emergency vehicles.

Firewise Construction

Fire-resistant Roof Construction: Use fire-rated shingles such as asphalt, metal, slate, clay tile or concrete products. A fire-resistant sub-roof adds protection. Box in eaves, but provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation and mildew. Roof and attic vents should be screened to prevent ember entry.

Fire-resistant Attachments: Any attachments to your home such as decks, porches and fences must be fire-resistant. If not, your home is vulnerable to ignition.

Fire-resistive Walls and Windows: Embers can collect in small nooks and crannies and ignite combustible materials; radiant heat from flames can crack windows. Use fire-resistant siding such as brick, fiber-cement, plaster, or stucco and tempered or double-paned glass windows to protect your home.

Home Safety Checklist

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles.

  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles.

  • Enclose under-eave soffit vents or screen with metal mesh.

  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8”.

  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.

  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustable materials from accumulating.

  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors, mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles- anything that can burn.

  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

All of these simple fixes will make your home safer from embers and radiant heat.

We've Updated our Community Hike Categories!

For those of you familiar with our community hikes, you’re probably used to seeing each outing listed under categories like Senior and Adult, All Ages, Extra Gentle, and Fitness Hikes. Our hikes aren’t changing, but we’ve decided to reclassify and rename the categories. We are doing so with the goal of making our hikes accessible to more people.

Instead of limiting hikes to certain age groups or user groups, we’re just categorizing the hikes, based on a variety of metrics, into levels of difficulty. We’ll leave it up to you to determine which hikes are geared towards the experience you’re looking for! As always, please contact us with any questions about particular hikes or if you’d like help determining which hikes would be ideal for you and your family.

Our new categories are as follows:

Easy (Green Circle): These hikes are gentle and suitable for all hikers. Generally 1-2 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation gain and very few obstacles along the trail.

Intermediate (Blue Square): These hikes are suitable for those in fair hiking condition or novices who want a bit of a challenge. Generally 2-4 miles roundtrip with moderate elevation gain. May include some steep sections and some obstacles along the trail that require balance or maneuvering.

Challenging (Black Diamond): These hikes are challenging for unconditioned hikers. Generally 4-7 miles roundtrip with moderate to significant elevation gain. Steady and often steep inclines. May include difficult terrain or obstacles throughout.

Advanced (Double Black Diamond): These strenuous hikes are suitable for well conditioned hikers only. Generally 7+ miles roundtrip with significant to extreme elevation gain. Likely to include a fast pace, steep inclines, trail obstacles, or all of the above.

Click here to see our Community Hike Levels Key.

Proposed Bike Skills Course

When the old city dump was capped and put out of commission about 10 years ago we were unsure what we could do with that land. The rules regarding closing and capping the dump prohibit the city from replanting it as a forest. Tree roots could penetrate or uproot the cap exposing what is below.

An option we are exploring is turning this brownfield into a bicycle recreation park. This park or skills course would have different features to enhance the abilities of young riders. A gravel path could help riders learn how to ride on uneven surfaces once they have mastered riding on smooth paths like the Thompson Trail. Another element could be a pump track or other skill building features.

In addition to learning skills, the park can help us teach local youths about conservation and stewardship. There will be opportunities to build rain gardens to treat storm water run-off from the skills course. City Engineering staff are advising us on the best way to do this. We may also have a chance to remove invasive plants off of the dump cap and replace them with native species. A wetlands delineation was done to establish wetland buffers and define the boundaries of the potential park.

The Parks and Recreation Department wants to hear from you about this idea. The project could be a success for recreation, conservation, and stewardship.

Written by Jonn Lunsford

Melissa's Message: Leave No Trace

The ACFL is an important part of our community and many people enjoy spending time in our forest lands. Our favorite trails are an essential component of the outdoor experience, whether mountain biking, hiking, or taking a horseback ride through the woods. As summer approaches, these trails and the forest will feel the increased impacts as more people in our community get outside to enjoy nature and other outdoor activities. A lot of people consequently means a lot of impacts and these impacts can accrue quickly, especially on fragile ground.

According to Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, 9 out of 10 people in the outdoors are uninformed about their impacts. With that in mind and summer approaching, I would like to share some of the ways we can lessen our impacts, based on Leave No Trace principles, to help the forest flourish into the future.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare to stay safe, reduce stress and make the most of your visit.

    -Know the rules, regulations, and special concerns of the ACFL

    -Check the trail maps for elevation, and bring it along with you if you are venturing into a new area.

  2. Stick to trails to protect fragile areas such as rocky outcrops with lichens, moss and plants, and respect private property.

    -Walk and ride in the middle of designated trails.

    -Do not create new trails or trample undeveloped areas. User-created “social trails” can lack important features of properly designed ones, leading to greater erosion and heightened impacts on plants and animals.

  3. Trash your trash and pack out animal waste.

    -Pet waste has a major impact on our local watershed by introducing pathogens and nutrients. Bagging it up and bringing it out with you is the best way to ensure that our waters stay clean.

    -Pack it in, pack it out. Put litter- even crumbs, peels and cores- in bags and dispose of in garbage cans.

  4. Leave it as you find it.

    -The best way to show your appreciation for ur forest inhabitants is to leave them as you found them. Everything in the forest has a purpose.

    -Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling trees or plants may kill them.

  5. Keep wildlife wild.

    -Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed, or follow them. Stressing wildlife in these ways damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.

    -Know and follow leash rules for your pet to minimize wildlife interactions and off trail disturbances.

  6. Be considerate of others to increase the enjoyment of the outdoors for all visitors.

    -Keep your pet under control to protect it, other visitors, and wildlife.

    -Yield to other users on the trail.

    -Leave generous space between you and other visitors.

    -Avoid making loud noises, yelling or listening to music through speakers. Many people visit the forest for solitude and peace; plus you have a better chance of seeing and hearing wildlife!

It is important that we do our best to protect the ACFL as users of this wonderful natural resource. It is also the season to be particularly mindful of the lack of rain and the flammability of dry plant matter in the ACFL. According to the National Park Service, nearly 90 percent of wild land fires in the United States are caused by humans. The agency attributes negligently discarded cigarettes as one of the primary causes of these wildfires; one mindlessly dropped cigarette could mean serious unintended consequences.

Educating ourselves and others about ways we might impact he ACFL and how to lessen impacts by practicing Leave No Trace principles, we can do our part to preserve the forest ecosystem and continue to enjoy it into the future. For more information about Leave No Trace visit: www.lnt.org

Bear with us

Anacortes has a new visitor. For the first time in 20-50 years, a black bear has been confirmed on Fidalgo Island! It was sighted in the Rock Ridge neighborhood near the Little Cranberry Lake Forest Lands. Click here to read the full Skagit Valley Herald article. This male bear is likely out looking for a mate and will probably wander East shortly. If you’re out hiking, we suggest keeping your dogs on a leash while in the forest lands (a requirement in the ACFL). Spot a bear? Don’t panic and no need to call 911. Just respect the bear’s space and send us an email at info@friendsoftheacfl.org to let us know where the sighting occurred. We’ll keep tabs on his location this way. Let’s enjoy this unique visitor while we have the opportunity and let him enjoy his forest habitat.

Meet Our New Executive Director!

Asa Deane will join The Friends of the Forest team part time in April and assume his role as Executive Director full time starting in May. Deane, a central California native, comes with a strong environmental education background and experience as a Program Director, inspiring and empowering students to connect with the natural world. After stints as both a cabin counselor and naturalist for an outdoor science camp, he was introduced to the idea of bringing people closer to nature as a job. Through his time spent outdoors, it became clear that in order to want to protect something, you have to feel connected to it; an insight that drives his personal and professional life.

 Deane’s love for the outdoors, desire to work with children, and mission to help protect the natural world came together in one unified career path. Seeking the next steps in their careers, he and his wife, Jenna, relocated to the Pacific Northwest. He served as the Program Manager at Wild Whatcom, an outdoor education non-profit based out of Bellingham. Now, having accepted the Executive Director position at Friends of the Forest in Anacortes, Asa is ready to jump in and get to work. 

“I could not be more exited to work with Friends of the Forest, both the organization, as well as the people that utilize the incredible resource that is the ACFL. My first time hiking in this forest, along the Heart Lake trails, I was amazed that such a place existed within the city limits and how lucky the people of Anacortes are to have it. As I learned more about the story of the land, this solidified my feeling that this was the work I was meant to be doing and the organization I was meant to work with. I hope to help Friends of the Forest protect and enjoy this beautiful forest for years to come through the combination of outreach, education, and stewardship- the very three things I feel are most important in successful land conservation.” -Asa Deane

Members and non-members alike are invited to join the Friends of the Forest in welcoming Asa at a meet-and-greet reception at the Depot Building, 611 R Ave., on Wednesday, June 19th at 6:30 pm. Get to know our new Director and learn about our exciting new forest education programs launching this summer from our Forest Educator, Melissa Courtney. Beverages and delicious appetizers from Gere-a-Deli will be provided. We hope to see you there!

Thank you!

A huge thank you to those who sponsored, donated, or attended the 2018 Annual Benefit Event! We had another fun and successful celebration with $65,000 raised for youth forest education programs that year after year continue to have a positive impact within our community. Thank you to all who support this mission and legacy.

Little Cranberry Fire

Little Cranberry Fire

As most of you know, there was a forest fire in the Little Cranberry Lake Area of the ACFL that began on August 25th. City staff and first responders supported DNR fire crews as they worked for days to contain the fire to 17.6 acres. The cause is still unknown, though suspected to be human related. It began close to the old copper mine, also know as The Bat Cave. Trail #122 remains closed at this time.

Friends of the Forest featured in GoSkagit

ANACORTES — The city of Anacortes, which was built around the maritime, timber and fishing industries, today boasts a large area of preserved forests.

The Anacortes Community Forest Lands are a treasured playground for hikers and mountain bikers, a haven for naturalists and a tool for educators.

This year a group instrumental in preserving these lands is reflecting on its 30 years of existence.

Read the whole article here »