Brandon Fralic | 05/04/2020 | Adventure - Outdoors, Insider Blogs |   

How To Safely Enjoy Bellingham and Whatcom County Parks

Bellingham is home to 3,400 acres of parklands and 80 miles of trails, all of which remain open during Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. This has been great news for locals looking to get outside and exercise.

The big questions on everyone’s mind right now are: where (and how) can I get outside safely? When is the best time to go out? Which parks and trails are open? To answer these questions, I spoke with Bellingham Parks’ Recreation Manager, Melissa Bianconi. Here are some tips from Bellingham Parks and Recreation on safely visiting parks and trails during the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.

Bellingham Parks and Recreation is encouraging users to get outdoors safely in their own neighborhood. 

“We are encouraging people to stay close to home and utilize what’s accessible by foot, bike, blade, etc. so people who don’t have options close to home or have mobility issues can drive in and utilize community parks,” Melissa says. 

“For example, I live in high-density housing in Cordata and don’t have a yard. But, instead of driving to Lake Padden or Whatcom Falls like I normally would on a weekend, I get my outside time by sticking in my neighborhood and utilizing Julianna Park.”

The best resource for discovering local parks is the Whatcom Park Finder. Developed in Bellingham by Recreation Northwest, this tool searches over 180 parks throughout Whatcom County. If you live in Whatcom County, try the Park Finder to discover new-to-you parks in your own neighborhood. Just put in your address and search radius, and Park Finder will show nearby parks in your neighborhood.

I searched for parks within 1 mile of my home in the Bellingham Lettered Streets. A few of my favorite walking destinations popped up, including Elizabeth Park and Waypoint Park. I often access these parks via the wide, paved Old Village Trail running through my neighborhood. Using Park Finder, I discovered a park that I’d never heard of: Fouts Neighborhood Park. I’ve added it to my rotation of neighborhood walking destinations. Give it a shot — you might be surprised by what you find.

Visit parks on weekdays, early in the morning, and during cool, cloudy days for a quieter outing. Weekends, afternoons, and sunny days are typically the busiest times. If you can, take a walk outside the peak midday hours of 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Consider a sunrise or sunset stroll.

Once you’ve found your park, it’s important to maintain safe social distancing during your visit. Follow these guidelines in the outdoors:

  • Do outdoor activities only with people in your immediate household (not extended families).
  • Do outdoor activities close by your home, instead of traveling to do them (if you have to take a car, maybe it’s too far).
  • If you encounter others, maintain a minimum of 6-feet distance.
  • Gatherings of any size are not allowed outdoors, just as they are not allowed indoors. That includes friends getting together to go fishing or hiking.
  • Remember to wash your hands with soap and water, and stay home if you are sick.
  • Wear a face mask to cover your mouth and nose.

Per an April 10 Bellingham Parks news release, (Want to keep parks open? Please follow the guidelines!) exercise is allowed in the parks but users must keep moving:

“What you should NOT be doing is picnicking, sunbathing, hanging in a hammock, playing basketball or hanging out. Come to the park, take a walk and get some fresh air, and go home. Parks Ambassadors and staff are monitoring parks and reminding visitors of the guidelines," states the release.

Bellingham Parks and Recreation’s primary goal is to keep the parks open and maintained for the health and wellness of our community. Please do your part to follow the rules.

Now is not the time to get into mountain biking and break a leg! Park users are encouraged to recreate below their skill level to help prevent injury.

In Whatcom County, trails in City of Bellingham Parks and Whatcom County Parks remain open, although many facilities within those parks are closed.

As of Tuesday, May 5, Washington State Parks (Larrabee, Fragrance Lake, Birch Bay) are scheduled to re-open on a limited basis. Outdoor recreation with appropriate safety precautions will be allowed including day use at state parks, state public lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources and at state Fish and Wildlife areas. Precautions include: wearing a mask, washing your hands, practice social distancing, avoiding crowds, and pack out what you pack in.

It’s important to always be prepared with a map and your 10 Essentials including water, rain gear and sunscreen.  During these times we do suggest going a little further than just 10. In addition to your gear, we recommend you bring: wipes, hand sanitizer, and a face mask.

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