Beloved Whatcom County nature reserve will soon get a paved parking area. Here’s when

A parking lot at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve was closed from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday to prepare for a paving project that’s planned next year for the park’s gravel parking area.

Wednesday’s closure allowed for groundwater infiltration testing for the project, which had been scheduled for this summer but was delayed until spring or summer of 2024, the Whatcom County Department of Parks and Recreation said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Parks and Recreation Director Bennett Knox told The Bellingham Herald in an email earlier this year that the cost of construction was over budget, so the parking lot paving was delayed.

Stimpson sees about 50,000 visitors a year, Knox told The Herald in an email.

Its 4 miles of hiking trails through 400 acres of old-growth and second-growth forest are immensely popular, and the parking lot is often full at the park, which opened in 2000.

A family walks along the trail at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve in 2009.
A family walks along the trail at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve in 2009.

“Aside from the fact that the property is magnificent in terms of its scenic beauty — small wetland and ponds among mature Douglas fir and western red cedar, and with a wonderful trail system that is easily accessible and convenient to a great many county residents — what I believe is special about this nature preserve is the history of its establishment. It is a testament to the foresight of those in the community who wished to see it preserved,” Knox said.

Knox said the project will “create well-defined parking spaces while also allowing us to better control stormwater runoff utilizing a rain garden” at the park’s current gravel lot.

One or two more spaces could be added to the approximately 15 spots currently, Knox said.

Cost of the project is $92,000, funding through real estate excise taxes.