Introduction, Goals, and Objectives – CVPRD Comprehensive Park Plan

Welcome to the second post in our Comprehensive Park Plan series. Last week, we broke down what a general comprehensive plan and how one would typically be used. This week we’re going to take a deeper look into CVPRD’s very comprehensive park plan. The goal of this series is to familiarize everyone with the park plan and break it down in a meaningful way.

To improve the quality of life in Columbia Valley by providing the community with access to
diverse parks and recreational opportunities.

CVPRD Mission Statement

As you may know, the Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District came together in 2016 to find ways to bring parks and outdoor recreational opportunities to the area. Ideally, the activation of CVPRD will bring community members together through outdoor recreation in order to form new connections and strengthen old. There are many known benefits of engaging with the outdoors, so why not strive towards making outdoor recreational activities more accessible to the community?

It all starts with an idea – find a way to bring parks to Columbia Valley.
Then, the idea turns into an action – form a local parks and recreation district.
After that, the planning begins – Listen to the community, survey what we have and what we need, write down ideas, and set obtainable goals.
Once those elements are written down, you have the framework for a comprehensive park plan.

Below we have included a slideshow with the 5 main goals, and the subsequent actions to be taken to achieve those goals. These goals are located in the beginning of the comprehensive park plan and are intended to serve as a guide for future planning actions.

Goals are so important to clearly define and works towards because they are tangible achievements. In 6 years when CVPRD gathers with the community to draft the next version of the comprehensive park plan, it will be so beautiful to see what has been accomplished. Alternatively, it’s also helpful to reflect on what areas still need more focus and attention. Working towards shared community goals inadvertently impacts Goal 3 – Strengthen Community Connections. Together, we can create and work toward a shared community park vision.

Next week, we’ll take a look at two other chapters in the comprehensive park plan – Community Profile and Inventory. These chapters contain lots of demographics and data, but it’s our goal to turn that information into something meaningful. Stay tuned!

What Is a Comprehensive Plan?

In 2021 Columbia Valley Parks and Recreation District released a completed Comprehensive Park Plan for the community. CVPRD’s comprehensive park plan is a 43-page document that was driven by public input and designed to guide the park planning process. The comprehensive park plan is filled with valuable information that will help fulfill the specific needs and goals of the community. However, a 43-page document can be intimidating, and we want the comprehensive park plan to reach its full potential usefulness! Therefore, CVPRD will be releasing this series of blog posts breaking down (1) what a comprehensive plan is in general and (2) different sections of our very own comprehensive park plan. Today we will be covering the basics, of what is a comprehensive plan. Stay tuned for more detailed posts about each section of CVPRD’s comprehensive park plan!

Local governments (e.g., cities) are required by the state to produce a comprehensive plan for zoning regulations. Although it is a state requirement, comprehensive plans are often treated as an opportunity to identify shared goals in a community and come up with a long-term strategy for achieving them. General comprehensive plans cover many topics, some common ones are projected growth, preservation/conservation of nature, economic development, equity, and accessibility needs of citizens, neighborhood development, and much more. 

An example might be helpful, let’s use Bellingham. Imagine a map of the city and zoom out to the full extent (photos below for reference), it would be difficult to see detailed relationships from this scale. However, you would be able to see the city boundaries and the relationship of the city to the water. A comprehensive plan might cover preserving the coastline for its natural beauty, or perhaps the plan would rather plan on developing along the water since it’s so desirable. 

On the left, City of Bellingham Topographic Map. On the right, Bellingham’s Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas Map. Source: City of Bellingham

Imagine zooming into the map to where you can see the distinction of neighborhoods (photo below for reference). Which neighborhoods have the highest number of residents (density)? Is there too much traffic in one area? Look at the projected growth, which places need to grow denser or where will we start developing? 

A cropped image of Bellingham’s Neighborhoods Map. Source: City of Bellingham

Now, you can even go a step further and zoom into the neighborhoods themselves (photo below for reference). How are people commuting to work? Are the public transportation systems in place underutilized or do we need more? Do there need to be more bike lanes? In places where people prefer to walk are the sidewalks adequate? Are the speed limits in place maintaining a safe and comfortable pedestrian environment? So many different relationships and moving parts it can become overwhelming. The comprehensive plan is designed to make things less overwhelming and more manageable by taking a step back, surveying what’s currently happening, considering what is projected to happen in the future, taking community input and needs, and transforming it into a digestible, meaningful, and guiding plan. 

Neighborhoods Near Downtown. Source: Google Maps

At the end of the day, the most important part of the comprehensive plan is that the community is involved. The community’s needs and input are vital to creating a successful comprehensive plan. For example, if a city was planned solely around its projected growth, it could potentially be a disaster. Perhaps the land use planners would plan to create pockets of high density to fit as many people into one space as possible without adequate utilities, infrastructure, or public space – the community would not be satisfied with this living situation. That is why it’s so important for planners to assess what is and is not working for the community and plan for a better city for all. After all, without the community, there is no city. 

Setting goals is important to achieve growth, and creating a comprehensive plan based on the community’s needs and goals is important to achieve a happy growing city. In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at CVPRD’s comprehensive park plan and examine the goals and objectives created for the specific community profile. Stay tuned!

Activity Groups and Volunteering with CVPRD

Welcome back to another blog post! As spring approaches, Columbia Valley Parks and Recreation Department is working on outdoor activities that can help improve your health, strengthen our community ties and are just plain fun! We’d like to start three different activity groups: one for walking, another for running, and one for photography. Whether you’re interested in volunteering and running an activity group, or simply interested in attending, we hope to start the conversation in this post. Of course, if you have any additional questions or comments, we encourage you to reach out!

Walking Group

A walking group would provide both social and physical benefits to residents. Research shows that walking regularly is incredibly positive for one’s health and well-being. Walking can improve blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness. Conditions such as depression, arthritis and dementia are a few of the health issues that can also be improved by walking.  And don’t forget the social benefits of walking in a group! Walking groups are great places to meet your neighbors, and since you’re walking, have a good chat and offer/receive support from friends and neighbors. An additional perk of walking is it requires no special equipment or skills, has little risk for injury, and can be done almost anytime and anywhere!

We think it would be a great idea to start walking groups in Columbia Valley. Now, what would that look like? Ideally there would be agreed upon meeting locations, dates and times. It would be great to have volunteer walking group leaders; a volunteer host would organize the dates and times, as well as encourage and support the walkers in the groups. 

Running Group

Like a walking group, a running group also provides both social and physical benefits to residents. People in the past have reported feeling intimidated about joining a running group, usually doubting their own abilities. However, most of these reports reveal that they have found incredibly supportive individuals who encouraged them to simply do their best. There have also been studies which show that running in a group helps individuals push themselves further than they would have alone. This helps a new runner realize they are stronger and more capable than they imagined. There’s also an increased feeling of accountability when an individual joins a running group. When you’re only running alone, it’s easy to de-prioritize your workout and let other responsibilities get in the way. However, when you have a set date and time for your run, it’s more likely you’ll prioritize it. 

As with the walking group, it would be ideal to have an agreed upon meeting location, dates, and time. Again, a volunteer host would be there to encourage, and support interested community members. Running with a group is a great way to receive and give social support to others while you all work towards personal fitness goals. Both walking and running groups would benefit from having volunteer group leaders who would coordinate the dates and times, and who would help support and encourage members in their efforts. Do we see some hands up?

Photography Group

Spring is coming! The skies will clear, and flowers will begin to bloom, wildlife will be foraging on all the fresh spring edibles and nature will be a-buzz. This sets the perfect scene for a gorgeous photo. A photography group provides a great incentive to explore new places and meet new people and take your art to a new level!

A photography group is also a great way to bond with friends and neighbors over a shared passion. It provides opportunities to share tips and tricks and learn from each other. Like the walking and running groups, volunteer hosts would do some planning ahead to determine a location, date, and time for each meeting. And a volunteer host would help the group by being available to support members of the group communicate and feel welcome. Joining a photography group is a great way to meet and connect with others with a shared passion and take some beautiful photos! 

Interested in volunteering? Use this google form to let us know who you are, which group you’re interested in hosting, and your availability! 

Additional Resources

Join a Walking Group to Improve Your Health!

Want to Go Faster or Farther? Join a Running Group

5 Benefits of Joining a Local Photography Group

Community Gardens

Welcome back to another blog post! Last week we did a deep dive into pocket parks (read it here). The pocket park post was particularly relevant because they are a great way to begin adding parks and public green space into our own community! This week we wanted to play on that theme and talk about community gardens. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of adding more community gardens could have in Columbia Valley.

Benefits of Community Gardens

One of the most obvious benefits of community gardens is the access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have ever had homegrown fruits and vegetables, you know the quality and flavor is far superior to what you bring home from the grocery store. Gardening in the community setting also promotes a healthy lifestyle while giving the opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors.  Tending to your community garden plot will undoubtedly give access to your daily dose of fresh air. Gardening in the community offers the healthy lifestyle benefits of fresh air and exercise. As you tend your plot in the community garden you are also gaining a sense of ownership in your community and building positive relationships with neighbors. Finally, there is also a huge educational opportunity in community gardens both for children and adults. With current fast-paced lifestyles we often don’t get the opportunity to learn where our food comes from in person. Community gardening also helps you gain new skills and learn about natural processes while you learn the skills to grow your own food.

Image Credits from left: City of Bonney Lake, City of Clearwater, City of Eugene.

Community Gardens in Columbia Valley

As you may or may not know, Columbia Valley already has one community garden at the EWRCC near the Food Bank. The existing community garden is located off Kendall Road next to the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center and the Foothills Food Bank. Now it may seem unnecessary or redundant to have more than one community garden in the area,  Jessica Bee (CVPRD’s Chair Commissioner) has mentioned that often the garden plots will fill up and availability becomes an issue. Another thing to consider is that many people appreciate having a community garden within walking distance of their home as it offers easier and more opportunities for spending time in the garden. 

Community Gardens are such a great way to get outside and strengthen your community, why not increase access and availability of them in Columbia Valley? We can also get creative with the placement of community gardens. For example, if there is a homeowner that is willing to use their front lawn for garden space, that homeowner could designate some of that space for public use. This is known as a lawn share program. Of course, a kind of negotiation could occur where a percentage of produce grown is given to the lawn owner as a form of payment.

Overall, there are many different ways to bring more community green space to Columbia Valley, and community gardens would bring more access to fresh produce while also strengthening the community. To learn more about community gardens visit the links below in the Additional Resources section.

Image Credits from left: Urban Harvest, Tampa Bay Times, Helena Community Gardens.

Additional Resources

What Is a Community Garden – Benefits & How to Start Your Own

A Front Yard Becomes A Community Garden

Types of Community Gardens

The Many Benefits of Community Gardens
Community Gardens – Healthy Foods – CDC (Includes links to detailed case studies) 

Pocket Parks

Welcome back to another innovative park design spotlight! Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered different kinds of innovative playgrounds, that have been geared exclusively towards children and families. However, parks are a place for everyone. Today, we’re going to be looking at an innovative park design that is geared towards everyone in a community – pocket parks!

Pocket parks are a great way to turn vacant land into public green space. They are specifically designed to encompass a small area. Pocket parks can be designed to fit the community where it resides. Some of the most famous examples of pocket parks are often found in larger urban environments, as a way to break up the city and incorporate more public green space. This has shown to greatly improve the quality of life for surrounding residents. The following slideshow highlights two famous urban pocket parks. Both are in Manhattan, NYC and are known as Paley Park and Greenacre Park.

Paley Park

Image credits, from left: Sampo Silko via Flickr, Mike Boucher via Flickr, Mike Boucher via Flickr.

Greenacre Park

Image credits: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Pocket Parks in Columbia Valley

While pocket parks are often seen in dense urban landscapes, this kind of park design could work well for incorporating more green public space in Columbia Valley. Plus, if a small vacant plot of land becomes available a pocket park would be a relatively cost-effective solution! Another great thing about pocket parks is that because of their small size, planning and executing a park plan can be less intimidating for a first park. Pocket parks are also a perfect opportunity for lots of community input and volunteer work. One example of a pocket park in Columbia Valley could consist of planting native vegetation, installer pavers for a small path, and possibly including some benches. Another fun possibility that Columbia Valley residents may enjoy is a wildflower garden! Not only are wildflowers enjoyable to look at, but they often promote healthy pollinators!

Chippendale Park – Sydney, Australia
Image Credit: Newton Grafitti via Flickr
Boyd Jackson Park – Takoma Park, Maryland
Image Credit: Google Street View
St. Anne’s Road Pocket Park 
Image Credit: Shubham Sotwal via Google Maps Images

It’s also important to point out that there are lots of resources and toolkits available online that help guide communities to planning their own pocket park. These resources include ideas for the park design, budgeting, where to look for funding, and some even include case studies! These toolkits will be linked below under the additional resources. 

Additional Resources

Trust for Public Land Pocket Park Toolkit

National Recreation and Park Association Mini-Park Toolkit

Toolkit for Community Participation in Pocket Parks

New York City’s Riskiest Park – play:groundNYC

CVPRD is excited to share another blog post series, this time showcasing different unconventional and extraordinary parks. We’ll be taking the next few weeks to research and highlight different park designs that are truly outside of the box. This week we’ll be diving into what is coined New York City’s Riskiest Park, enjoy!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “risk” and “park” in the same sentence? It may be safe to assume that most people might feel uncomfortable by this pairing of words, certainly they would not assume that a risky park would be a place suitable for children. Well, a group of parents, teachers, and artists decided to challenge this common though by opening a park known as “play:groundNYC” in New York City, where children are encouraged to engage in self-directed play. Where risk is not seen as an inherently bad thing that one must avoid, but a critical part in children’s ability to assess and understand their own risk-taking behaviors.

Children freely exploring creative play at NYCs play:ground.
Credit: Marj Kleinman

Play:groundNYC is a 50,000 sq. ft. park where children are able to explore, destroy, create, and build freely – without parental interference. In this unique park, children have opportunities to explore a variety of materials including nails, saws, hammers, tires, paint, wood, and fabric. You may be thinking to yourself that this park sounds like a catastrophe waiting to happen, parents aren’t allowed inside, and children have free reign over all these potentially dangerous materials? Don’t worry, there are playworkers that watch over the children and help them distinguish the difference between a risk and a hazard. 

A Playworker (orange vest) oversees the actions of a young child safely exploring being destructive. 
Credit: Marj Kleinman

 Parents have often expressed being skeptical about the concept at first, of course nobody wants to intentionally put their child in any kind of danger. However, many parents have realized that this creative kind of play is similar to their own childhoods, the difference being that their children and now exploring in a controlled environment. This kind of play is incredibly beneficial for child development, the carefully curated environment allows children to experience risk and excitement (an important sensory need) without truly being in any danger. While parents are not allowed to hover over children in the park, they watch from a distance not too far away, and if anything truly dangerous were to appear – a playworker would step in to help guide and educate.   

The concept of adventure playgrounds seen in play:groundNYC is not new. It was in 1943 in Copenhagen, Denmark when the first adventure playground came to life. While there are 3 different adventure playgrounds in NYC, they have a hard time becoming popular due to parental fear. However, many parents who have given adventure playgrounds a chance have witnessed how these parks can be powerful learning environments – encouraging children to strengthen and develop “the 4Cs,” communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. If you knew there was a place where your kids could explore and develop critical skills in a controlled risky environment, would you give it a chance? 

People forget that children are people. You feel that you have to show them everything and that your way is right. And I think it’s incredibly valuable to remember that kids have agency, and they have rights, and they need space and tools and support, but they will make, for the most part, the right choice.

Rebekah Faulkner, executive director of play:groundNYC

Watch NBCs inside look on one of NYCs adventure parks here:

If you’re looking to read more about adventure parks, below are links to the sources used to create this blog post.

No Parents Allowed: Kids Explore, Take Risks at Junkyard Playgrounds.

The Junk Playgrounds of New York City.

A Peek into The Park Planning Process Part 4

Welcome to the final post in the peek into the park planning process blog post series! So far in this series we’ve covered how to pick a property, evaluate the assets, imagine a park vision, and come together to make decisions. Now it is time to cover how park plans are implemented. 

Something wonderful about the park planning process is that it is flexible and adaptable every step of the way. The flexibility and adaptability are driven by community input and involvement. Therefore, the implementation process will vary depending on the type of park the community envisions. For example, larger park installations and visions might require the use of contractors. Hiring contractors would require more budgeting and will take more time to implement, since CVPRD is a small parks and recreation district with limited resources. However, when keeping budget and timing in mind we can get creative with what can be done with volunteer work. 

Having lots of volunteers willing and able to be a part of the park implementation process would significantly cut costs. This part of the park planning process is also particularly exciting because we get to gather members of the community to identify individual skills and talents that feed into a collective strength. For example, some residents might have a green thumb and would be particularly helpful with planting new greenery and vegetation. Other residents might have skills regarding building and the implementation of equipment. Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding, not only do people feel an increase in self-esteem but there is a collective feeling of happiness that comes from accomplishing something as a community. 

There is still plenty of opportunity to imagine and implement bigger park plans. Bigger plans would just take longer to budget for and eventually implement. There will also likely be opportunities to volunteer within a larger park building process as well. The central theme in these blog posts has been community involvement. The best parks will come from what the community creates. CVPRD looks forward to involving the community every step of the way. 

A Peek into the Park Planning Process Part 3

Coming Together to Make Decisions –

Welcome to this week’s blog post! So far in this series we have covered how to pick a property, evaluate the assets, and imagine a park vision. Community involvement plays a critical role in all the steps of bringing parks to Columbia Valley… but what does community input and involvement look like for our community? In this post we will dive deeper into some possible ways CVPRD hopes to collaborate meaningfully with residents of Columbia Valley to bring the best outcomes possible.

One easy way to start gathering community input is through surveys. CVPRD has used google forms in the past to collect data from residents. Google forms is user-friendly, and the surveys are designed to be quick and easy. Surveys would be helpful to get an initial idea of what park elements people want to see. The more people who participate in the survey, the easier it will be for the commissioners to find trends and patterns in park requests. CVPRD wants to design parks that would be enjoyable for everybody. The more active resident participants the better the parks will turn out! However, we know that access to the internet can be a challenge and we want to do the best to accommodate all residents. 

The CVPRD looks forward to when we could hold regular in-person community meetings. However, the times right now are uncertain, and we must consider everyone’s safety. Luckily, the online world has become incredibly helpful in facilitating virtual meetings. As you may now, CVPRD holds two virtual meetings each month, which is a great place for community input and feedback. The Public Meetings page on our website has all the information on what days, times, and how to join. When it comes time to collaborate more on park decisions, it’s possible that we may hold additional online meetings which would be posted on the Home and Public Meetings pages. 

We are also looking into the possibility of holding socially distanced and masked outdoor meetings during better weather seasons. As sometimes we also find that it’s more comfortable to speak up and participate in-person rather than online. Announcements of these kinds of meetings will be posted on the website, on our Facebook page, and on flyers posted around town.  

There are many different modes and methods when it comes to community engagement. At the beginning there will be a lot of trial and error when it comes to the park planning process. The wonderful thing is that these are all learning experiences and over time we will be able to perfect the engagement and planning process for our community. We look forward to meeting with everyone in the future and collaborating to bring the best parks possible to Columbia Valley!

Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District Exciting Winter and Fall Updates!

This Autumn and Winter seasons the Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District is thrilled to announce East Whatcom Gets Active classes for all ages! We are starting with classes with Dan Muffoletto to learn the basics of Chang Man Ching Tai Chi. Dan has nearly 4 decades of experience instructing Tai Chi for all ages and abilities. 

(CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED TIMES & DAYS!) These classes started October 14th and are free and open to all. Each Thursday through December 23rd (except for November 25th) Dan will teach one class tailored to seniors and those who are mobility challenged from 5:30-6:30PM and then from 6:30PM to 7:30PM Dan will teach a class for all ages. Children are welcome to attend with a caregiver who is also taking the course. Tai Chi has been shown to benefit many folks of all ages and abilities with balance, mental wellbeing, and aerobic health.

Space is limited so we ask folks to RSVP by calling 971-236-1799, emailing or by going online to for the Senior Mobility Challenged classes or to for the All Ages course. These classes will be held at the EWRRC at 8251 Kendall Rd. Dan also welcomes those interested to call him at 360-746-7177  or email him at We hope you will join us!

If you are a fitness instructor and are interested in helping the community with exercise classes please call Jessica at 971-236-1799 we would love to hear from you!

In addition please consider participating in our monthly regular meetings on 2nd Thursdays at 5PM or our Park Planning Meetings on 3rd Tuesdays at 5PM -even the first 30 minutes would be valuable if you are attending the Tai Chi classes as we take public comment early in our meetings. Meetings are held online and you can join by calling 425-436-6324 and entering access code: 5397130# or by going online to We look forward to connecting with you soon!

A Peek into the Park Planning Process Part 2

Imagining a Park Vision –

Welcome back to another peek into the park planning process. Last week we covered picking a property and evaluating the existing assets. This week we’ll dive into the next step – imagining a park vision.

There is a variety of different parks and equipment that CVPRD could bring to Columbia Valley. However, it is vital that we build parks that the community wants and needs. Park plans will vary depending on the property picked and the desires of the community. Once a property is picked, it’s up to us to collaborate with the community to determine what will change on the property. Will this park be more equipment intensive, or nature-based? 

Equipment intensive parks also vary in shapes and sizes. Members of the community could express the desire for children’s play equipment, or exercise equipment, or perhaps sports equipment? All three of these categories would play a different role in shaping the park plan. There are also different kinds of nature-based parks. There could be potential for paved paths, benches, or picnic tables. Or maybe members of the community would prefer a well-maintained nature park with no equipment whatsoever. Age groups are another category the community would want to consider. Do we want a park for children? Teens? Adults? Or maybe, a mix between several? That’s for everyone to decide and plan accordingly. The opportunities are endless, but community-based input is vital for a proper plan. 

Another thing to consider is budgeting and volunteering. Some equipment, such as a bike pump track, is more costly and it’s important to keep a budget in mind. However, with strategic prioritization, clear communication, and active participation these kinds of potential problems will either be resolved or compromised. There are many ways in which the community can volunteer their time to decrease the costs of park projects, which could in turn bring more desired assets to the future park. 

When it comes time for this step of the park planning process, CVPRD is looking into sending out surveys and hosting a meeting (either in person or online) to give everyone an opportunity to prioritize and collaborate. As always, everyone is always invited to the Park Planning Meetings that occur on the third Tuesday of every month at 5PM and regular meetings every 2nd Thursday at 5PM. You can visit our public meetings page at to join. 

Check out the links below to learn more about different park amenities.

Neighborhood Parks

Pump track article

How to build a pump track 

Natural Park Design in action

More Natural Park Design

Seattle Parks with Multi-age Fitness Equipment

How to create a trail in a small area