Who are the Friends of the ACFL? Tree Huggers, of course! Especially the trees of the City Woods! And just as the forest we love is made up of a great variety of plants and animals interacting and growing together, so is our group a collection of many individuals with many special concerns and talents, who are brought together by our love for the ACFL.
The Friends was founded in 1987 by Ruth Johns, Doreen Dunton, Leigh Slotemaker, and Phil Burton. The Forest Advisory Board had asked for a group of hikers to organize field trips for children and seniors. At the same time, the city was in the middle of a series of clearcut logging operations in the ACFL, and it was obvious to the Friends that this process would soon destroy the woods altogether. So the emphasis for the group’s activities quickly became focused on lobbying for the ACFL’s preservation, and many more residents joined in the cause.
FOF became a regular participant in Forest Advisory Board meetings, and not just as an adversary. While continuing to challenge the logging plan and arguing for its termination, the Friends realized that long term protection required a coordinated forest education program. We organized it in three parts: 1) convince the Forest Advisory Board and City Council that cutting down the forest was the wrong way to manage it; 2) show the community what was really going on in the woods, and rally support from others who were concerned; and 3) make the ACFL a part of the science education program of the school district, so that children could learn about the natural world first hand, and develop a respect for its magic and majesty.
Many people joined the cause, each contributing their own skills and expertise. Bill Rockwell flew over the ACFL and took photos of the clearcuts, and Bob Jahns displayed these in his bookstore. People were horrified to learn that this was going on. Up till then, the logging had been kept out of sight. Ross Barnes and Leo Dorsey documented some of the old growth trees the loggers had felled, and the Anacortes American published their pictures. A group of teachers from Island View Elementary School went on a field trip in the Cranberry Lake area and agreed to include such field trips in their curriculum. The Parks Department put a questionnaire in its quarterly newsletter, asking what people thought about the logging plan, and was surprised to learn how many residents opposed it. At the same time the Park Comprehensive Plan identified hiking trails as the most valued recreational facility in town.
The Forest Advisory Board stopped revenue logging in 1989. The City Council agreed to include the management of the ACFL in the Parks Department budget that year, and it has remained as a fully funded division of the Parks Department ever since. The Anacortes School District has included field trips in the ACFL for its elementary classes every year, a program we offer as the centerpiece of the Friends of the Forest ongoing commitment to education and community service. And in 1998 the City Council adopted the Conservation Easement Program, by which the community can preserve the ACFL forever.
All these things the Friends of the Forest have done, and continue to do, with your support and participation. We are a bunch of tree huggers just like you, and we are committed to the perpetual preservation of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands.