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Expanding Big Rock Park

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An Opportunity for the Generations

Our community has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand and re-open beloved Big Rock County Park - a Skagit Landmark. Located above the beautiful Nookachamps Valley on the eastern edge of Mount Vernon, Big Rock Park’s 13 acres have become cut off from public access, as it is surrounded by private land. Skagit Land Trust is poised to reverse that and expand the park five-fold. This will protect wetlands, a creek, a regenerating native forest and provide permenant public access to low-impact trails through the forest and to the rocky summit.

We need your help to make this vision a reality.

If this project is successful, it will not only restore public access to Big Rock, but will expand the park to protect 63 additional acres of prime habitat on the edge of growing Mount Vernon. A park for people to walk or bike to from Mt. Vernon’s dense neighborhoods. A park for fish and wildlife. A park that honors a culturally important landscape. A park for the generations – past, present and future.

Skagit Land Trust must raise $400,000 by December 2023 to ensure the expansion and permanent protection of Big Rock. Those funds, in addition to partnering with Skagit County Parks on a state grant, will allow this project to fully succeed.

In 1995, Skagit Land Trust facilitated the original gift of 13 acres at the top of Big Rock from Dr. Richard and Holly Hoag to Skagit County Parks to create a nature park for the community. The Trust placed a Conservation Easement on the land to ensure the property would always be protected. Sadly, the public has been cut off from this beloved park for a generation.

Skagit Land Trust has worked with the County for nearly 30 years to find ways to expand the park and ensure access. We now have our best, and last chance to do this.

Big Rock County Park in 2001, shaded green and outlined in yellow, six years after being donated to the County

Big Rock County Park in 2023, with the hopeful addition highlighted in yellow

Protecting Big Rock Matters – Here’s Why

It Will Protect Native Fish & Wildlife Habitat, Forever:
Big Rock pokes up from the Skagit Valley as a rock island, hosting unique plant and wildlife communities. It is an anchor in a nine-mile-long Nookachamps Valley system of native wildlife habitat, lakes, wetlands, farms and open space that runs from Lake Creek and Big Lake to the Skagit River. The slopes and base of Big Rock that are part of this park expansion hold creeks, wetlands, rocky outcrops and regenerating native forests. They connect to the extensive valley ecosystem. The rock itself is unique – many other rock outcrops in the Nookachamps have been ground down for quarries. If protected, this land and valley ecosystem will be a green heartland, protecting and connecting native habitat as Mount Vernon grows around it.

Drone footage above Big Rock
Looking north from Big Rock towards the Barney Lake wetlands, Skagit River, and the Salish Sea in the distance.

It Secures Public Access for Trails and Viewing Areas:
Big Rock County Park has been closed to the public for years because there is no legal public access to it. It has taken decades, but we now have a chance to ensure permanent public access to an expanded Big Rock Park with a trailhead, parking, and trails for low-impact use such as hiking, photography, nature education and birding. Permanently protecting Big Rock’s adjacent forest and wetlands will provide long-desired access and allow nature to thrive as the city grows. Countless generations will be able to visit this stunning viewpoint of Mount Baker and the Nookachamps. The forest will re-establish itself and become old growth one day.

50 years from now, when Mount Vernon has developed on all sides of Big Rock, an expanded park will be a rare haven for both wildlife and people.

It Is a Culturally Significant Landscape:
Big Rock is a central location in the history, stories, and traditions of the ancestors of the Coast Salish people, in particular, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe. Their ancestors include the Nook-a-chah-mish who lived in the Nookachamps River Valley. Historically Big Rock was called “Yudwasta” (of the heart). It looms large in the Legend of The Star Child. Several villages and camps were located near Big Rock. Upper Skagit Indian Tribe staff support this project and are helping with history and site interpretation to tell its important cultural history.

Looking out from the top of Big Rock towards Big Lake
Scott Schuyler, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe’s Policy Representative for Natural & Cultural Resources, and his daughter looking south from Big Rock, the Nookachamps weaves through protected farmland in the valley to the left, finally reaching Big Lake.

It Supports Smart Growth:
Prioritizing housing and growth in our cities is a carbon friendly way to absorb population growth and support affordable housing. People also need easy access to nature in their backyard. However, as our cities have grown, studies show that access to open space, trails and nature has fallen behind. Big Rock is within 10 minutes of growing, diverse, and mixed-income neighborhoods in east Mount Vernon. As the infrastructure and trails are created, an expanded Big Rock County Park will be within walking distance of a school and adjacent to the Centennial Trail. Public transit will eventually reach the proposed park entrance. Big Rock is perfectly situated to be a park that helps people appreciate the natural world. If this opportunity is not taken, it will be impossible in the future to secure this much land for a nature park this close to the city.

Hikers on the top of Big Rock, looking west towards homes on the edge of Mount Vernon.

What Needs To Happen

In early 2023, the property was about to be sold and carved up for exclusive lots. Skagit Land Trust deemed this land such a critical part of our community’s future that we agreed to purchase the property to get it off the market and try to protect it. The Washington Opportunity Fund assisted with a generous loan and we borrowed from our internal reserves. However, this is a temporary solution. Skagit Land Trust must pay back its loans. The land is not yet protected forever. If we cannot raise these funds, we will have to sell part, or even most of, the 63-acre addition to pay back loans.

Skagit County Parks Department is seeking a $1 million grant from WA State to help purchase the land from the Trust in 2025. If awarded, this grant, and $400,000 more in committed County funds, will cover 70% of the project cost. Skagit Land Trust only needs to raise $400,000 to ensure Big Rock County Park is permanetly expanded and protected.

For only $400,000 we can create a nature park in the center of future urban growth. In years to come, it would be impossible to secure this much land for a nature park no matter how much it is needed.

We are asking our community to help us protect all of Big Rock for current and future generations of people and wildlife. What we are not able to protect today, will be gone in the future.

If you want to help ensure Big Rock is protected, click the button below to make a gift. If you would like to make a gift from an IRA, Donor Advised Fund, or with stock, please email Development & Outreach Director, Laura Hartner,

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Map of Big Rock Area Conservation

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