Hundred Acre Wood Outdoor Classroom is a celebration of our partnership with City of Bellingham Parks & Recreation Department. Recreation Northwest’s Fairhaven Park Trail and Boardwalk project has evolved through three phases over the past ten years. As primary partners with the City of Bellingham, we worked to create a community stewardship and environmental education project that has completed its final phase.
See Hundred Acre Wood Outdoor Classroom ~ Project Team & Sourcing for details.
The primary objective was to transform our mitigation planting site into a public outdoor classroom. The new facility is reservable through Bellingham Parks & Recreation for scheduled events and programs. It will be open to the public when not reserved.
Project construction utilized natural materials to complement the natural surroundings. The Adventure Rock Trail leads from the “back door” of the amphitheater for kids to bounce along from rock to rock in a simulated dry creek bed. We worked to incorporate active, interactive, and thematic features to provide opportunity for approachable physical challenges. We have witnessed kids positively engaged in the outdoors and nature in this space. Think Hot Lava!!
View of trailhead with Native Plant Garden Gate in background shown below.
View looking up the trail towards the Amphitheater, pre-construction of the pavilion.
Close up view of the “creek bed” looking up into the Amphitheater with newly built pavilion.
A serene Native Plant Garden with a park bench is another amenity in the classroom space. The garden’s gated entryway reflects a Japanese Torii style, most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred. We are working to optimize the health benefits of human interactions with nature. You can learn from the native plant and invasive species identification signs displayed throughout the area.
Thanks to our partners at Philips 66 Ferndale Refinery for their contribution to our ongoing stewardship work of the area, we installed the park bench that would eventually be transformed into our Native Plant Garden. The bench was installed in 2019 and the interpretive signs in Spring 2023.
Maturing Douglas fir, planted in 2017.
Native Plant Identification signs educate the public about local flora in the park and throughout the Northwest. Each sign lists the characteristics of the plant for identification; Habitat Ecology for examples of where else to find these species; and Ethnobotany outlining the traditional uses by Coast Salish peoples.
In addition to Bellingham Parks, we also worked with City of Bellingham Public Works staff for content for Invasive Species Identification signs to be able to identify the noxious weeds. “Noxious weed is the legal term for invasive plants in Washington that are so aggressive they harm our local ecosystems or disrupt agricultural production. These plants crowd out the native species that fish and wildlife depend on.” With volunteers, Recreation Northwest continues to work to remove invasive species from the area and keep the nutrient rich material on-site in Compost Piles.
As you wind through the woods you’ll see another sign for Salmonberry and in the distance our rock bench. The mulch trail leads from the Native Plant Garden to another gathering area in the Outdoor Classroom.
Recognition Rock Bench, installed in 2019, shows gratitude for the support for Phase Two- building the wetland boardwalk and creation of mitigation sites. The bench has traditionally been used for informal gatherings for small groups of friends and families. Think picnics.
Looking down the “back door” to the Native Plant Garden. The rock bench was intentionally designed to look like a big fish hook, giving a nod to the Bellingham Traverse and our former motto of Get Hooked!
We are grateful for the opportunity and privilege to be able to dream big and make this happen!
We extend our appreciation to our city partners, funders, donors, contractors, volunteers, and board members for all the support. Project leads were Recreation Northwest and Bellingham Parks & Recreation. The main contractors for the design and construction were Chris Mellick, Spoken Stones; Mike McAuley, McAuley Design Works; and Greg Martens, Marker Construction. Funding provided by Recreation Northwest, City of Bellingham, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, The Norcliffe Foundation, Superfeet, Gear AID, and Individual Donors.
Deeper History: When we started this project, the site was considered to be a part of Fairhaven Park. Through the evolution of time and the eventual creation of a master plan, our area was consumed by the new Hundred Acre Wood boundary. And that’s a good thing.
For the record:
Fairhaven Park is owned and operated by the City of Bellingham Parks Department
“With over 136 acres to explore, Fairhaven Park is a great family destination…” Go to Bellingham Park’s Fairhaven Park page for more information about playgrounds, picnicking, parking, facility reservations, and other amenities for the public.
Recreation Northwest adopted it as a stewardship site in 2014. See our Trail & Wetland Boardwalk project page for details.
We are currently hosting Outdoor Recreation & Nature Education Programming in the park and woods.
See the RN Experiences Calendar.
Fairhaven Park Entrance Gateway
Update from Bellingham Parks: “This project involves the design and construction of a new entrance sign, which will also function as a gateway or landmark structure for this community park. The proposed entryway structure will be located at the main entrance to the park on Chuckanut Drive. Four design options have been developed for public review and comment on Engage Bellingham until March 31, 2022. Following public input, design options will be presented to the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, then the Bellingham Arts Commission for a final recommendation. The preferred design will then move forward for final design and permitting, with construction planned for Summer of 2023.” Fairhaven Park Entrance Gateway project page.
Fairhaven Park Map
Print out the 2015 Fairhaven Park & Forest Trails Map (PDF). This map was created to show where our Fairhaven Park Trail & Wetland Boardwalk was going to be located. The map includes the Hundred Acre Wood and surrounding park properties.
Trees of Fairhaven Park Map
Fairhaven Park History
“Fairhaven Park, located between Harris Avenue and Chuckanut Drive, consists of 16 acres. A five-acre donation by C.X. Larrabee and Cyrus Gates of Pacific Realty in 1906 was enlarged by another five acres from the Erastus Bartlett estate. Additional acreage was further donated by Pacific Realty, and the entire parcel was then deeded to the Park Board of the city in 1909.” Dig into FairhavenHistory.com for more background on the public property.
1906 – A five acre plot of undeveloped land south of Julia Ave. between 14th and 16th streets is gifted to the City by Pacific Realty Company, owned by Charles X. Larrabee and Cyrus Gates. Later, and additional 5 acres is donated by the Erastus Bartlett estate.
1909 – Deeds are accepted by Park Board Original development of the park was funded mostly by C. X. Larrabee and designed by John C. Olmsted
1918 – The Caretaker’s house at the rose garden was built with original floor plans based on Cyrus Gates’ Woodstock Farm Cook’s house.
1908-1922 – Fairhaven Park contained a small petting zoo.
1914 – The original pavilion was built. It caught fire in 1937 and was rebuilt in 1975, and again in 1982 after another fire.
1916 – Wading pool was installed outside the pavilion. It was replaced in 2003 by spray park.
1923-1928 – As was popular at the time, Fairhaven park was converted into an automobile tourist camp with a camp shelter and tourist camp house. The camp was located where the current main parking lot is.
1990-2007 – Caretaker’s house is leased for use as the Fairhaven Youth Hostel for young travelers passing through Bellingham.
2008-present – Rose garden and Caretaker’s house leased by the Center for Local Self-Reliance*.
Reference: A History of Bellingham Parks by Aaron Joy. As printed in the Trees of Fairhaven Park Map
2011 – 82 acres purchased by City of Bellingham. This area was known endearingly as the “Hundred Acre Wood” to the community. Past developers also referred to this property as Fairhaven Highlands or Chuckanut Ridge.
2013-14 – 111 acres are rezoned for public access and the area is considered to be part of the larger Fairhaven Park, integrating previously acquired City properties into one area.
2014 Recreation Northwest adopted Fairhaven Park as it’s stewardship project. See Trail & Wetland Boardwalk Project.
*Update: Center for Local Self-Reliance is now known as Chuckanut Center.