Many residents in Anacortes are lucky enough to live within walking distance to some of the city’s 2,800 acres of forests. With rapid real estate development engulfing much of the city, we have Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands, more commonly known as Friends of the Forest, to thank for preserving and educating the community about the natural woodlands, meadows, and wetlands.

Founded in 1987 by four hikers, the non-profit group advocates on behalf of the forest ecosystem. At the center of its mission: The Forest Education Program. In the beginning, the group served more as a social group. Within a few months of its formation, they shifted gears to serve as an advocacy group speaking against the city’s revenue logging.

They succeeded. “There was a lot of wariness to locking up the land forever…but the community support became very potent,” explained Denise Crowe, the current education and outreach director. Today most of the cityowned forest land is protected indefinitely either under the Conservation Easement Program or other restrictive deed language.

Today the non-profit group consists of seven to nine board members and two staff members. Crowe, a graduate of the Evergreen State College, enjoys spending time in the woods teaching groups about Anacortes’s diverse ecosystems and habitats. Educational programs include all-ages hikes, high school projects, elementary school class trips, and summer day camps for kids, aged 7–12, who learn valuable life lessons through “old-fashioned play and nature discovery.”

In this age of screens and information overload, everyone can benefit from a few hours in the woods.

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"'There was a lot of wariness to locking up the land forever…but the community support became very potent,' education and outreach director Denise Crowe said"