California Creek Estuary Park

Love this Land, Whatcom Land Trust

This week Whatcom Land Trust (the Trust) transferred an additional 12 acres of conservation land to the Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 (BBBPRD2) for expansion of the California Creek Estuary Park. This is the third contiguous parcel purchased by the Trust to facilitate acquisition by BBBPRD2.

According to Ted Morris, Capital Projects Specialist with BBBPRD2, with this addition the park will protect roughly 900 feet of saltwater shoreline on Drayton Harbor and 1800 feet of freshwater shoreline along California Creek.

Whatcom Land Trust has prioritized conservation in the California Creek watershed for the last ten years to support critical habitat restoration and increase climate resilience.

Key conservation areas include the estuary and side channels of California Creek, which provide critical salmon rearing habitat, and the mudflats at the mouth of Drayton Harbor. The mudflats are designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA), providing migratory stopover habitat for shorebirds. By protecting coastal wetlands and estuary shoreline, the Trust is able to maintain critical wildlife habitat and conserve wetlands surrounding the estuary that provide a buffer from impacts of sea level rise.

Additionally, Whatcom Land Trust has worked to restore coastal wetlands in the California Creek watershed by removing impervious surfaces, removing invasive species, and planting thousands of native trees and shrubs in critical habitat areas.

“Blaine-Birch Bay Park District appreciates the partnership with Whatcom Land Trust in order to acquire properties like this,” said Ted.

Whatcom Land Trust frequently works with county and local governments to assist in the acquisition of land with high conservation and public access value.

“Partnering with the Blaine-Birch Bay Park District has been a great opportunity for Whatcom Land Trust to protect key wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation opportunities along Drayton Harbor and California Creek. Not only is California Creek a vital waterway for migrating and rearing salmon, but water quality impacts key shellfish harvesting areas for commercial, recreational, and tribal harvesting, ” said Alex Jeffers, Whatcom Land Trust Conservation Director.

Over the last year Land Trust staff and volunteers completed stewardship work including invasive removal and native plantings on the new parcel.

Additional amenities at the California Creek Estuary Park will include an interpretive trail and kiosk, a picnic area, a kayak launch, and a ¾-mile loop trail. The park will also serve as a trailhead for the Bay to Bay International Trail.

The Trust is excited to help grow the California Creek Estuary Park, and looks forward to continuing the impactful partnership with BBBPRD2 to ensure public access and protection of critical habitat along California Creek.

Whatcom Land Trust facilitates the acquisition of 12 additional acres to the California Creek Estuary Park,FEBRUARY 28, 2023. Read the article at

Our vision of transforming California Creek Estuary into a park is getting closer! The first of the parcels of land that will eventually become the park was transferred from Whatcom Land Trust ownership to the Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2, with the second parcel hopefully to be transferred by the end of October. The Land Trust will keep a recorded conservation easement on the larger parcel in order to protect the land in perpetuity. This marks a huge step forward in our journey with this Estuary. The future park will include a number of different amenities including a looped nature trail, a kayak/canoe launch, restrooms and an interpretive kiosk. Demolition of the house on the first parcel of land will begin now that the Parks District has ownership of the land. Construction of the park infrastructure will likely begin next spring or summer, bringing us one step closer to realizing our vision for California Creek Estuary Park!

The Land Trust has already completed significant restoration efforts on these properties. Marine estuaries such as California Creek are crucial to protect, as they provide important habitat and help to protect water quality. The subbasin of California Creek makes up 40% of the Drayton Harbor watershed, which means this is a huge opportunity to impact and improve water quality in this watershed. Coastal wetlands help support a myriad of species, including orca whales, salmon, shorebirds, and many more. The Land Trust has also started conversations with Natural Systems Design to begin planning restoration activities on these properties to restore the natural functions of the tidal wetlands and begin to replace invasive species with native plants.
Whatcom Land Trust is in the process of acquiring three more properties upstream with funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Coastal Wetlands program, and will be hosting work parties there next year. In total almost 100 more acres of land will be protected, along with 6,500 feet of shoreline.

Our work in the California Creek watershed is the perfect example of how organizations working together can be a powerful force for conservation and stewardship. Through the combined efforts of the Land Trust and Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2, along with many other organizations, California Creek will become a place larger than the sum of its parts. This land will be protected now and into the future, preserving its natural beauty and its important ecological role, while also creating a space for all to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the land we love. It’s every volunteer like you who helped at a work party, and every community member whose gift – large or small – helped move this project forward, that makes parks like this possible, and creates a community treasure we can all enjoy for generations.
Article taken from a Whatcom Land Trust publication called The Steward

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