By Meg Olson
The Cedar Point Avenue trailhead access to Lily Point Marine Park will stay closed for good.
“It’s a fairly unstable slope,” said Whatcom County parks director Michael McFarlane, which would make keeping the access open a public safety risk unless a bridge were constructed over the widening ravine. “It would be extremely expensive to bridge that.”
Instead, McFarlane said, they would construct a loop trail back to the main parking area, leaving an open area and overlook at the gully.
The trail was closed in November 2015 after a chunk of the trail slumped off. Since then there have been continued calls from local organizations to find a way to reopen the trail. “Aside from closing the trail, to the best of our knowledge nothing has been done to mitigate the erosion or make changes to keep the park trail open,” the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee wrote to county executive Jack Louws in November 2016. “While we are not experts in the field it would appear if the source of the erosion, water, would have been diverted the expansion of the erosion could have been minimized or eliminated.”
In January 2017, county parks staff came to the Point with public works geologist Steve Fox to assess the site and come up with options. “Minor adjustments to the trail location will likely meet the same fate as the current trail location,” he wrote in his report, as the underlying substrate suggests the head of the ravine where a small stream enters it will continue to move landward several hundred feet until a stable stream gradient can be established. “Appropriate design alternatives could include a suspension bridge, rope swing, pole vault or human catapult,” Fox said.
Asked whether the site could be stabilized by redirecting the flow of water, McFarlane said, “It’s a natural drainage and we typically won’t go in and redirect natural water flow. That gorge has been there for probably several hundred years. The slumping will probably continue for some time, affecting not only parks property but nearby private property. Also, one of the reasons we acquired Lily Point was that it’s a series of feeder bluffs and this is what feeder bluffs do.”
As they erode, feeder bluffs provide material that builds down-current beaches.
Erosion continues to chip away around the periphery of Lily Point. Fences put up by county parks staff when the park was first being developed to keep people away from the edge on the bluff trail are about to slide down the bluff themselves.
“What we’ll do next is put that fence right behind the sign closing the trail, to stop them there rather than where we don’t want them to go,” said parks operations manager Christ Thomsen. The bluff trail, considered a user trail by parks staff, is not authorized and was not included in the park’s trail plan due to erosion and safety concerns. Thomsen said they will increase signage and barriers while obliterating the trail by restoring natural species. “We want to protect both the natural resource and the people who use the park,” he said.