My office has received many inquiries about the status of Galbraith Mountain, in light of the owners' recent announcement that public access to this property will be closed. This area has provided wonderful recreation opportunities, particularly for mountain biking enthusiasts. It serves local residents and is a draw for visitors to our area from all over the region and beyond. For others who live nearby, it is also an undeveloped treasure they wish to preserve.
For both hikers and bikers, Galbraith Mountain's popularity as a recreation destination is due entirely to the generosity of various private companies that have owned it during the past several years and allowed its extensive public use.
Despite the fact the land is not inside Bellingham or even in the City's urban growth area, City officials have hosted stakeholder discussions to brainstorm ways to possibly bring Galbraith into public or non-profit ownership. These discussions were of an exploratory nature and we were joined by other government representatives and organizations interested in continued use, new uses and/or preservation.
Unfortunately, few in attendance were in a position to commit the resources necessary to take any serious first steps to acquire the property. The $20 million price tag the current owners originally placed on the property and the revised pricing recently suggested in light of significant timber harvests taken from the land in the past few months, remain out of reach for local governments and area non-profits. Frankly, it is a price inconsistent with today's property values, so it appears the owners are taking steps with recent announcements about suspension of trail usage to leverage user groups' attachment to the property to prop up the price.
As with any property transaction, the City must protect the public's limited resources and pay a price that is not only fair but feasible under current conditions. Thus far, Galbraith Mountain has not met those tests. Further, the City's participation in such a purchase would require approval by the Bellingham City Council. The Council has considered no proposals and taken no action on purchasing Galbraith Mountain property.
We will continue to work collaboratively with other interested parties, so the door is by no means closed. At the same time, I cannot assure that there is an easy resolution. We will keep the public informed as best we can about events that unfold, especially to the extent that they involve the City of Bellingham.
~ Mayor Dan Pike
Published: Apr 14, 2011