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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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