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    Permanent protection for Galbraith Mountain

    Galbraith Mountain boasts more than 50 miles of singletrack trails that span over 3,000 acres, according to  the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition website. // Photo courtesy of Lincoln Humphry

     

    By Micah Evangelista

    The Bellingham City Council approved conservation and recreational-use easements from Galbraith Farm LLC to protect the mountain from any kind of future development at a meeting on July 23.

    The rights contain 2,182 acres and connect to 4,250 acres of public land managed by Whatcom County.

    Ian Smith, representative of The RJ Group, said the $3 million deal occured after months of negotiations.

    The RJ Group represents Galbraith Tree Farm LLC, which purchased the land in 2017 from the Paulus Estate.

    Many are unaware that recreation at Galbraith has been threatened by previous owners, said Whatcom Land Trust Executive Director Rich Bowers. // Photo courtesy of Lincoln Humphry

    Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville and members of the Bellingham City Council expressed their support of the agreement and voted a unanimous 7-0 vote to move forward with the deal.

    “While most users have been going there for years, many may be unaware just how often previous owners have threatened to close it down over liability and other concerns,” Rich Bowers, Whatcom Land Trust executive director, said. “I came on the Whatcom Land Trust in 2004 and negotiations with earlier owners were going on then.”

    Bowers said mountain bikers have been doing volunteer trail work on the mountain for over 30 years.

    For members of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition and the Whatcom Land Trust, it has been a roller coaster ride to get to this point.

    “Our relationship with the past and current landowners of Galbraith was through a Memorandum of Understanding, which gave us permission to have trails on the mountain but never secured them,” Barbara Karabin, president of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, said. “This meant that at any point our relationship could be terminated, ending our organization’s ability to oversee and manage all of the amazing trail work going on Galbraith.”

    Rob Janicki, owner of Galbraith Tree Farm LLC and The TJ Group, has worked closely with Eric Brown, trail director for the Whatcom Bike Coalition for nearly 10 years, and that relationship strengthened when Janicki bought the mountain in 2017, Smith said.

    “It soon became a mutual understanding that a deal like this was a win for everyone involved,” Smith said.

    Of the $3 million total sale, $2.75 million came from the City of Bellingham for the recreational use easement, and $250,000 came from the Whatcom Land Trust for the conservation easement.

    “Additionally, the conservation easement prohibits any development on the mountain, protecting 65 miles of trails, commercial forest land and the Lake Whatcom Watershed,” Smith said.

    Approximately 1,023 acres of the total 2,182 acres are located directly within the Lake Whatcom Disrict Watershed. The conservation easement will prohibit future construction and development on this land, protecting Bellingham’s water supply and water quality at Lake Whatcom.

    The Galbraith Mountain Tree Farm LLC still plans to harvest trees at a safe and sustainable rate, Janicki said.

    In addition to the recreational and conservation easements, the sale will also make it easier for the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition to host future events on the mountain and to expand the trail network, Karabin said.

    “The WMBC is currently working with the city to develop a management plan, as well as expand the parking lot on Samish Way and add bathrooms,” Karabin said. “Now that we have secured recreational use on Galbraith, we can confidently continue to provide quality trail work on the mountain, improve upon the user experience and continue to grow our recreational community.”

    1 COMMENT

    1. This is an easement, not a purchase which would have been better. So while the preservation of trails and the lack of development is good for the environment, let’s call this what it is. A company that has enjoyed using our natural resources for decades made us pay them a $3 million dollar ransom to keep doing so while 42% of Whatcom County Residents live at or below the poverty line, at least 1,000 of them are homeless, and our government makes no real investments in public infrastructure, housing or education. But hey, at least some big company who knows the mayor and council still gets to cut down trees and was able to bully us into giving them $3 million. Typical Linville administration garbage. Give money to those who can already help themselves, and pretend that it was for the benefit of the community. How about this instead, how about reminding the Trillium Corporation that they get to harvest trees here because the people allow it, and demand they give back to the community that supports them without requiring a $3 million mafia style protection money fee for the community to use their land. So let’s no break an arm jerking the city council off on this one. We need real land purchases to ensure environmental protection, and we need to get our priorities in order before preserving recreational use of anything while people are freezing to death on our streets, while the same council that approved this refuses to use available publicly owned buildings to house them in the winter. This was only a win for the people involved here, not for everyone.

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