Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pearl of the Chuckanuts
How much is it worth ?
Heather and I spent Valentines Day yesterday cruising the trails of Blanchard Mountain, covering over 13 miles worth on what turned out to be a wonderful February day. From my home office window I have a straight shot view of Blanchard Mountain-often luring me to stop keyboarding and start thinking about hitting the trail. The trail system at Blanchard is excellent and it makes for a great backyard recreation area for Skagit and Whatcom County residents. We hiked in from the quiet Alger side-cruised to snow covered Lizard and Lily Lakes before taking in the spectacular San Juan Islands View from the Oyster Dome, the pearl of this mountain-to- sound-greenway. The whole area makes for a great winter hiking destination and you can find more information on the area in my Day Hiking North Cascades Book. The region is also highlighted in my upcoming Western Washington Winter Hikes Card Deck. Definitely come on over here if you haven't yet and are itching to stretch your legs in now in the heart-of-winter.
And while hiking these trails, I leave you with a couple of things to contemplate. The Pacific Northwest Trail which traverses Blanchard Mountain could possibly become a National Scenic Trail this week if Congress passes the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (See earlier posts). If this bill gets passed, there will be more funding and recognition for this this long distance trail which travels from the Olympic Coast to Glacier National Park in Montana. Much of the route currently utilizes roads and it would be great to get it all onto actual trail. A good portion traverses the Cascades foothills of Skagit County too offering quieter hiking alternatives than the Issaquah Alps. A Major trail upgrade would have many benefits.

And while we are talking about upgrading and up keeping trails, Washington State is facing a 7 billion dollar deficit and its looking like that will be having a heavy toll on our parks and public lands. Other than the state considering eliminating state parks, government officials are considering enacting a day use fee on DNR lands to help offset the drastic reduction in funding due to the hemorrhaging of the timber cut from those lands. While supporters and objectors for day-use fees on public lands will no doubt once again retrench into their familiar ideological arguments for or against-to me it looks like a nominal day-use fee is a necessary evil. I would rather purchase a $25 annual pass to recreate on Blanchard, Tiger, Si, Silver star, Loomis, Table and a host of other places than let my public lands become run-down and over run with methheads, vagrants, shooters and other dregs. A healthy society needs healthy public lands and easy access to them. Closing parks and forests or letting them run down and become havens for criminals is not a wise option. Swallow your objections to day-use fees and reach a little deeper into your wallets this year to help save our irreplaceable natural heritage. Contact our legislators and governor and demand that they not close or decrease access to our public lands. Then be sure to vote out the irresponsible reckless politicians (Democrats and Republicans) that got us into this financial mess. Now go take a hike and put all this on the back burner for a few hours!

(Photo- Its one shell of a view from the Oyster Dome- Feb 2009)


Flatlander said...

At least a $25 annual fee for residents and a $15/week fee for out-of-state residents. What are the current fees?

Craig said...

Hi Flatlander-

Currently there is no day-use fee, and I prefer it that way in a perfect world. But if it means losing parks, forests, trails and access because our governor has spent money like a drunken sailor (correction-a drunken sailor can only spend the money in his pocket-not mine)-then I welcome aday use fee to keep our lands open and in good shape. As far as charging out-of-staters more-be careful with that one- I for one recreate in state parks on a regular basis in other states. I imagine these states would reciprocate just like they did back in the 70s and 80s when some state parks systems actually charged out-of-staters more money- not a good idea.