A Walk in the Park: Herrera’s Work at Cordata

The Cordata Neighborhood is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Bellingham, including two unique parks: Julianna Park and Cordata Park. Spanning over 20 acres in north Bellingham, Washington, Cordata Park is one of the City’s newest recreational areas. For over 7 years, Herrera has worked with City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department, providing civil engineering and permitting support on a number of improvements at these parks.  

Cordata Trail to Elementary School

Herrera’s work for the Cordata neighborhood parks began in 2014 with the development of a trail connecting Cordata Elementary School to Julianna Park (formerly Cordata Neighborhood Park) in addition to a

pedestrian bridge over an existing stream. The project site consisted of two parcels: a 13.5-acre parcel owned by the city and a 19.7-acre parcel owned by Bellingham School District 501. Our interdisciplinary team led the design, permitting, and construction observation for 1,650 linear feet of the new multi-use trail and bridge. The crushed limestone trail extends south from the Julianna Park meadow, crosses West Horton Road, and continues south to Cordata Elementary School.

Herrera‘s permitting expertise ensured the project design met the WSDOT Shared-Use Path Standards, ADA, and City of Bellingham Parks Standards. This project involved several permits including stormwater permits, a building permit for the bridge, critical area permits for the wetland buffer impacts and mitigation, a forest practices permit, and a hydraulic project approval from WDFW.

The City has an existing easement for the trail on the school district parcel. Much of the trail, located outside of the easement, lies within a wetland buffer. Herrera provided wetland buffer mitigation design by utilizing creative trail route selection for full stormwater dispersion. This method provided flow control and runoff treatment in the wetland buffers for the majority of this project. Compensatory mitigation included 203,121 square feet of buffer mitigation consisting of planting native vegetation on the City parcel. To mitigate buffer reductions, native shrubs and groundcover species were densely planted in 10-foot-wide zones adjacent to each side of the trail. Conifer trees were also planted in the City parcel to mitigate permanent buffer impacts. For stormwater management, Herrera designed five rockery walls on the school district property to meet the grades within the existing easement. Construction for this site was completed in 2015 and has become increasingly popular with Bellingham residents.

Cordata Community Park

One year later, Herrera returned to the Cordata neighborhood, providing civil engineering services for the first phase of the development of a new larger community park, Cordata Park. The 20+ acre park site surrounds a 4-acre wetland and includes a picnic shelter, maintenance building, splash pad, parkour area, restroom building, pump track, playground, parking lot associated utilities and approximately 4,000 linear feet of trail. To support park uses, Herrera spearheaded all hydrologic modeling efforts to maintain the hydrologic inputs to 12 wetlands and one stream. Through this modeling, Herrera determined an increase in hard surfaces through project improvements increased runoff.

To mitigate the effects of increased runoff to on-site wetlands and receiving waterbodies, the splash pad area was designed to drain water into the sanitary sewer system when used in the summer, and discharge to a wetland through a dispersion trench during winter off-seasons. Pavement runoff is treated through bioretention swales and a Compost Amended Vegetation Filter Strip (CAVFS). Other source control pollution measures include limiting the use of chemical materials and storing hazardous chemicals and materials within the maintenance and restroom buildings. Additionally, all garbage and recycling facilities were covered to prevent stormwater contamination. 2021 marked the completion of this first phase of construction. 

To improve vehicular and pedestrian access and utilities, Herrera combined access from the recently constructed Horton Road extension with a paved driveway and parking lot, sidewalk, utilities, and cleared park area planned for future park amenities. These improvements allow for vehicular and emergency access into the site as well as an accessible sidewalk and 12-foot-wide loop trail system to connect to the existing meadow and trails within this neighborhood park.

Herrera’s civil engineering and environmental permitting expertise kept the permitting process local by limiting critical areas impacts to buffer areas, in addition to minimizing the permitting timeline. These efforts also maintained ecological function of the surrounding critical areas. In addition to conducting compensatory mitigation for buffer impacts on the nearby Parks-owned property, Herrera coordinated with the Horton Road extension design team to ensure the driveway and utility connections for the park were well cited and stormwater management provides ecological protections for the surrounding critical areas. Access and utility improvements at Cordata Park were completed in 2021.

Julianna Park Improvements

In 2018, Herrera returned to Julianna Park to evaluate design alternatives for vehicular and improved pedestrian access to the trail network avoiding and minimizing impacts to surrounding critical areas. In 2019, Herrera developed the design, permitting, and bidding documents for the preferred alternative including a new driveway, parking lot, vehicular bridge, utilities, irrigation, signage, lighting, stormwater flow control, native plantings, and new trail connections. Construction of these improvements was completed in 2020.

This phase of improvements was also coordinated with the design and construction of an extension to West Horton Road, providing the only vehicular access to the park. Herrera’s team worked closely to coordinate stormwater management and critical areas impacts, as well as utilities, grading, and driveway siting. This coordination provided permitting, resulted in more robust mitigation efforts, and reduced impacts to the neighborhood.

The Future of Cordata

In 2020, Herrera and the project team began design for the second phase of improvements for Cordata Park. This work will include a second parking lot, sports courts, picnic shelter, events lawn, pavilion with restrooms and warming kitchen, associated utilities, and trail connections. Herrera looks forward to continuing our work with the City of Bellingham to create sustainable recreational sites for visitors and residents to enjoy for years to come.