Nine candidates are running for 5 seats as Park District Commissioners. Below are statements from 6 candidates who are committed to the single purpose of paying off the loan at the stated rate of $28/$100,000 Assessed Value for 10 years and preserving the property as a park, forever, and to then terminate the Park District. There are three other candidates.
Cathy McKenzie, South Neighborhood
For the past decade, I have been actively involved in efforts to preserve the Hundred Acre Wood for the long-term benefit of future generations and to promote responsible infill within our neighborhoods. Maintaining the integrity of this keystone habitat block is essential if we want to encourage dense infill along our existing Southside commercial and transportation arterials while protecting the Padden, Chuckanut, and California Creek watersheds; maintaining a functional wildlife corridor for sensitive species which depend on travel between the Mount Baker wilderness, the Chuckanut Mountains, and Bellingham Bay; and providing a real connection to nature within walking distance of those urban dwellers who most need it.
As an Earthwatch volunteer, I recently spent several weeks on a research expedition in Madagascar, where 90% of the native forests have been destroyed by human activity. I want to help prevent Bellingham from continuing on a similar path. Here, the Chuckanut Community Forest is the only remaining mature forested wetlands ecosystem within City limits. Its educational, ecological, and recreational value depends on it remaining intact and publicly owned and managed.
I support the proposed Chuckanut Community Forest Metropolitan Park District because it is the only viable, democratically representative way to ensure that the $3.2 million Greenways III inter-fund loan is repaid and the property remains unfragmented and is protected and remains publicly accessible in perpetuity. If elected as Commissioner, Position 1, I will do whatever I can to represent your interests and ensure:
the tax levy does not exceed 28 cents per $1,000 assessed property value;
the district is narrowly focused, as intended, on paying off off the inter-fund loan and securing long-term protections and publicly reflected management practices; and
if the community so desires, the MPD will dissolve as soon as the loan is repaid and adequate protective agreements/conservation easements are in place.
John Hymas, Happy Valley
I recently submitted my application with the County Auditor’s Office as a candidate for one of five Chuckanut Community Forest Park commissioners that will appear on the February ballot for part of the Southside. The main issue is to create a self-taxing park district to pay back the City for finally buying the “One Hundred Acre Wood”/”Chuckanut Ridge” outright. Dedicated Greenways funds were used for most of the purchase, but the Greenways Endowment Fund was tapped for a 3.2 million loan to complete the deal. Questionable rezoning of this environmentally precious property in the 1980s sparked the three successful Greenways Initiatives since then without properly securing the entire parcel. If the Initiative passes those residents will be taxed 28 cents per $1,000.00 assessed value in property taxes for ten years. It will then be preserved in the City park system for eternity.
After nearly 30 years of community opposition to the threatened destruction of a critical forested wetland jewel in the City, we have the chance to protect it, and bail the City out of the embarrassing situation of having to sell off a large portion to repay the Greenway Endowment Fund. Most of us on the Southside love and use our parks and trail system. Many take them for granted. I don’t. Vote for the initiative and vote for me.
Dan Remsen, South
I am committed to limiting this effort to levying a tax sufficient to pay off the Greenways inter-fund loan ($28/$100,000 AV), securing permanent protection for this ecologically valuable city park, and terminating the MPD. It is that simple. If we want it, we need to pay for it. Then let the City of Bellingham Parks Department and the Greenways program do what they have long done so well.
Susan Kaun, Fairhaven
As a candidate for the proposed Chuckanut Community Forest District, Position 3, I believe it is essential for the entire 85 acres of the new District to remain intact and permanently protected for the benefit of fish and wildlife in the Padden Creek and Chuckanut Creek watersheds, and the well-being of the citizens of Bellingham.
Best available science from the City’s Wildlife and Habitat Assessment, December 1995, prepared by Nahkeeta Northwest, identified and recommended this site as a ‘Significant Habitat Conservation Area’:
“The total area is significantly valuable habitat…Preservation of wetland and upland habitats, as well as the Interurban corridor are necessary for the function of this area to support current species composition, which require both wetland and terrestrial habitats. Attributes include: significant intact wetland/upland complex, the greatest diversity of amphibians in the City, species rich and abundant breeding and resident birds, red fox and other uncommon medium-small mammals, a Sitka spruce community (rare within the City), fawning areas, presence of species of concern and species of local significance, major corridor connecting Padden and Chuckanut watersheds.”
If elected, my goal is to repay the loan the City of Bellingham made to purchase the site, so the City will not need to sell any of the land.
Vince Biciunas, Fairhaven
Many of us have been working for years trying to preserve the natural gem that we know as Hundred Acre Wood and Chuckanut Ridge.
We understand its value as a wildlife corridor between the Cascade Range and the Salish Sea. We appreciate the value of its wetlands, its streams and its forest. We rejoiced when the City of Bellingham was able to accomplish the purchase of 82 acres of the property in the summer of 2011.
Now we must complete the financing bargain of repaying the intra-city fund that needs $3.2M to be whole. The vehicle of a Metropolitan Park District is the best way to carry this out. We can do this with a levy on ourselves, the five south side neighborhoods, of $.28 per $1,000 valuation, and do it within ten years.
If we are unsuccessful in this endeavor, we will be the ones suffering the negative consequences of high-density development on these sensitive lands.
As a candidate for the commission’s Position 4, I pledge to hold the levy to this amount or less, conserve the land for wildlife protection and citizen education and recreation and if still in office, expect to sunset the park district as soon as the loan is re-paid.
John Brown, Fairhaven
If elected as Park District (PD) commissioner, I pledge to run for re-election when my term is up and to carry through the PD’s purpose: to save the WHOLE of Chuckanut Ridge from development, and to retire the inter-city loan of +$3 million. When the loan is retired, I anticipate that the commissioner board will sunset. Saving the Ridge protects precious wetlands, ensures wildlife connectivity throughout the Chuckanut region, and allows southwestern neighborhoods of Bellingham to be responsible stewards of a mature riparian forests that thousands of citizens have always wanted to preserve for future generations.
I also pledge, if elected, to accept no salary as commissioner and to keep the tax levy at $.28/thousand (or less) of the assessed value of dwellings encompassed by the precincts voting. I would never support proposals for asserting eminent domain–that is, condemnation of land inside and outside the park’s boundaries.