Lake Serene
Photo by Brian Kilpatrick

Saving Lake Serene

Forterra ensures permanent public access to the beloved Lake Serene Trail

Thanks to massive community support, Forterra officially closed on the last-remaining privately owned section of the popular Lake Serene Trail in October 2018. The purchase of this 190-acre property guaranteed permanent public access to Lake Serene Trail’s breathtaking views, waterfalls and reflective alpine lake—forever.

Hikers on the Lake Serene Trail
Photo by Brian Kilpatrick

A beautiful and beloved hike at risk

The Lake Serene Trail has long been of Washington’s most popular day hikes. In Ira Spring and Harvey Manning’s “100 Classic Hikes in Washington” it is described as a “jewel of the first order.” More than 45,000 people of all ages and abilities enjoy its stunning beauty each year.

However, this popular trail crossed land privately owned by Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest private timberland owners. Weyerhaeuser was willing to sell the land for conservation, but only if the necessary funding could be raised. Committed to protecting the beautiful and tranquil experience of hiking an unspoiled Lake Serene Trail, Forterra launched a campaign to save the trail in mid-August 2017.

“It’s hard to think of a place that’s a stronger signature of this special part of the planet than Lake Serene Trail,” said Forterra’s now-president Michelle Connor. “Keeping it healthy and intact is critical for this generation and all that follow.”

The total cost of the project was just over $800,000. The Snohomish County Conservation Futures program pledged roughly half of this amount, and other planned funding proposals brought the raised amount to around $525,000. This left a crucial gap of $275,000 to be raised during late summer and early fall before the October 30th deadline. Forterra was determined but knew it would take the support of the community to make this hope a reality.

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Hikers admiring Lake Serene on a beautiful day

A successful community campaign

The urgent grassroots fundraising campaign to save the Lake Serene Trail kicked off and quickly mobilized with help from the community of hikers and climbers, as well as active partners in the nonprofit and outdoor retail sectors who joined together to publicize the effort. Over 600 community members contributed to the Forterra campaign, which was propelled by a challenge grant from an anonymous couple who had their first hike at Lake Serene and a particularly generous last-minute gift from an anonymous Seattle Foundation donor honoring the memory of a young friend who deeply loved the trail. Supporters used #savelakeserene on shared photos and posts and geotagged “Lake Serene- Bridal Veil Falls” to spread the word about this special place.

“It was a true all-hands community effort,” said Connor. “I’m humbled and inspired by the huge array of funders and partners who stepped up, from Snohomish County, to fellow nonprofits, recreation groups and outdoor retailers.” Among many, The Washington Trails Association, The Mountaineers, Washington Alpine Club, Outdoor Research and REI played especially pivotal roles.

 

It’s hard to think of a place that’s a stronger signature of this special part of the planet than Lake Serene Trail

Thanks to the outpouring of community support, Forterra met its fundraising goal by the late October deadline, enabling it to leverage generous added funding from the citizen-supported Snohomish County Conservation Futures Program.

“The desire for accessible trails and outdoor spaces continues to increase alongside our flourishing Pacific Northwest region,” said Snohomish County Parks, Recreation & Tourism Director, Tom Teigen. “Outdoor recreation experiences are a key component in enhancing quality of life, and they grow our outdoor recreation and tourism economy.  We are delighted that the Conservation Futures Program could provide the primary funding to preserve this cherished trail.”

The forest through which the Lake Serene Trail passes.
Photo by: Jon Levesque

More than just a trail

While the Lake Serene Trail only traversed a small part of the full 190-acre inholding, Weyerhaeuser offered to sell the entire parcel. To secure the best value for every conservation dollar spent, Forterra and Weyerhaeuser agreed on a plan for the company to first harvest second and third growth timber on a 57-acre portion of the property located away from the trail during a temporary trail closure from September 2017 through Labor Day Weekend of 2018. This allowed for a lower purchase price and a supply of timber for local mills.

Forterra and Weyerhaeuser worked together to ensure the timber harvest would minimize the impact to trail users, and Weyerhaeuser spent additional resources restoring the Forest Service road we all know and love as the trail.  Said Connor, “We’re also pleased that Weyerhaeuser provided the community with the time needed to raise the funds to purchase a public legacy with exceptional recreation, community and habitat value.” Although Weyerhaeuser had previously allowed public access through its land, this transaction guaranteed that the trail would remain accessible forever.

Now, Forterra has the opportunity to steward the property and supplement Weyerhaeuser’s reforestation by planting additional trees to provide for a diversity of species.

Lake Serene and a view of Mt Index and the Hwy 2 corridor
Photo by: Jon Levesque

Lake Serene Trail is Only the Start

Saving the Lake Serene Trail is just one part of a larger campaign by Forterra to secure keystone places for the health of the environment as well as the economic health of communities along the Highway 2 Corridor, a region stretching from the Skykomish Valley to the Salish Sea.

Past accomplishments in the corridor include working with Friends of Heybrook Ridge to secure 130 acres of forest on stunning Heybrook Ridge above the rock-climbing town of Index.

The next project in the campaign is to secure the 320-acre Maloney Creek and Forest property a little to the east on Highway 2. This is an opportunity to permanently conserve a beautiful forested area important to wildlife, riparian habitat, and the economic future of the close-by town of Skykomish.

Overall, the success of the Lake Serene campaign is an encouraging indicator in Forterra’s ongoing work to secure land for good. The dream of saving Lake Serene would never have become a reality without the support of the community. Said Connor, “We are so proud to be part of a community who loves this place enough to step up to make sure it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

We can’t wait to see what we can do next—together.

Help us secure more places like Lake Serene
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