Parks and Recreation

Director: Brian Adams

Northern State Recreation Area
Revised Master Plan


Spring 2002

In 1991, Skagit County purchased a 726-acre portion of the former Northern State Hospital from the State of Washington for the purpose of developing a major regional recreation facility for the citizens of Skagit County and beyond. The site, now called the Northern State Recreation Area (NSRA), is located on the eastern edge of the urban growth area of Sedro-Woolley in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

NSRA has a diverse range of natural, cultural and topographical features. There are significant wetlands on site as well as large areas of dry meadow and forested uplands. Hansen Creek, a significant salmon stream slated for restoration, flows through the site. Prior to closing in the 1970's, NSRA was the working farm associated with the Northern State Hospital. Perched on a plateau overlooking the southern meadows are the abandoned dairy barns from the farm operations, built in 1921.

Some preliminary planning for NSRA occurred in 1993-94 that included a resource classification study and a conceptual master plan for development. However, between 1994 and 1998, the site received little attention due to county staff being fully committed to other projects and minimal public involvement in the site. That changed in 1998 when a group of citizens formed the Northern State Task Force (NSTF) to work on implementing some of the development plans on the property. In support of the NSTF efforts, the County Board of Commissioners earmarked three million dollars in December 1999, as seed money to get development started.

Rationale for Revised Plan
It was evident that a revised plan was required to update the 1994 conceptual master plan because a number of significant changes had occurred since 1994. These included:

  • Wetland delineation and mapping (completed in 2000 on the southern half of the site) revealed significantly less land available for development than originally thought.
  • A new high school, originally included in the 1994 plan, was no longer slated for location on the site.
  • Considerable planning had occurred for the restoration of Hansen Creek that needed to be factored into the new master plan.
  • Critical area ordinances requiring buffers around streams and wetlands had changed a great deal over six years.

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