Friday, February 24, 2012

Community-led Protection of Bellingham's Lake Padden

Lake Padden (Photo: Phil Humphries)
Betsy Gross, Director of People for Lake Padden, wrote the "Whatcom View" guest editorial below that was printed this morning in the Bellingham Herald.

Residents join together for Lake Padden and park

By Betsy Gross, director of People for Lake Padden

Who in Whatcom County doesn’t know about Lake Padden and its park, the jewel in the crown of Bellingham’s City park system located a few miles south of downtown?  Established 40 years ago, Lake Padden Park includes picnic areas, playground, beach, ballpark, golf course, dog off leash area, and over 5 miles of trails.

Visitors to Lake Padden can testify to both its beauty and its many fine recreational uses: swimming, boating, golfing, fishing, bird watching, picnicking, hiking, walking, jogging, racing, and bicycling. The Padden Park area is also habitat for deer, raccoons, wild birds of all kinds, and coyotes.

Many organizations hold their events at the lake throughout the year: the Resolution Run and Polar Bear Plunge, the Dog Days of Summer, the Padden Duathlon and Triathlon, the Masters Swim Club’s Open Water Swim, and the Greater Bellingham Running Club’s Lake Padden Relay, are a few among many.

The lake itself covers about 160 acres and the maintained trail around it 2.6 miles long – just the right distance for a walk.

For many years my friends and I have enjoyed starting our mornings with a walk at Lake Padden. During certain times of the year, however, we noticed fluorescent algal blooms covering large areas near the shoreline and wondered what was happening to the lake.

When I first moved into Lake Padden’s watershed, I did not connect what I did at home with how it affects the lake.  A watershed is just like a bowl: what happens on the sides of the bowl will eventually slide to the bottom.  So I put myself on a learning curve to become a better lake steward.

Over the years I met many fellow Lake Padden enthusiasts who held similar sentiments – a love for the lake coupled with a concern over its condition.  Out of this concern we formed in April 2011 People for Lake Padden, also known as P4LP, and committed ourselves to protecting the lake and preserving it for generations to come.

We began partnering with local organizations that could help us learn more about the lake.  We learned that water quality data existed but it was spotty and no baseline had ever been established.  Using start up donations, we hired two Huxley college interns to collect and analyze water samples and to conduct a land use mapping study of the lake’s watershed.

This year we will use the information collected on Lake Padden’s water and watershed to determine the influence of runoff on the lake’s general health. Our results will be provided to the Department of Ecology, the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County for use in making land use decisions.

We do this entirely as volunteers because we want our grandchildren to love and enjoy this beautiful lake as we do now.

This doesn’t happen without effort.  It requires stewardship – not only for those of us who live in Lake Padden’s watershed or who frequent the park, but also for the public officials who are our official guardians of this beautiful lake’s lands and whose decisions will influence the health of Lake Padden for generations to come.

Our County Council elected officials are making such a decision on February 28 regarding reinstating the Yew Street Neighborhood - in the Lake Padden watershed - to its former UGA status. If this action passes, it could increase development in Lake Padden’s watershed and could affect the health of the lake.

P4LP is requesting County Council to defer any action until the results of our water quality and watershed studies are completed.  We believe the data and analyses from these studies will provide sound recommendations to inform a knowledge-based decision making process by the County.

If you also love Lake Padden and are interested in its protection and preservation, I urge you to add your voice to ours and contact the County Council before February 28.

People for Lake Padden invites you to learn about Lake Padden and to join in protecting this beautiful local resource by visiting our website.

1 comment:

  1. Please join a group of Lake Padden supporters at the RE Sources library (above the RE Store) at 5:00 on Tuesday, February 28. We will travel as a group to the County Council meeting, and testify at the open session. The more, the merrier!


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