Tuesday, January 8, 2013

62 Years of History: T39 R3E Section 4

I routinely go over sets of historic aerial photographs. The purpose of my reviews varies depending on the project but the exercise provides some accumulated perceptions on how landscapes in Washington have changed over time. This particular set presented below is from Whatcom County.

The area is approximately one square mile Township 39North, Range 3 East, Section 4. Its a bit of a random selection as I was looking at another section within the same collection. This particular section does not tell a particularly compelling story, but perhaps that is a story in and of itself.

 The southwest corner is the intersection of Pole Road and Hannegan Road in Whatcom County. This intersection is one of the infamous LAMIRDs (limited area of more intensive rural development) that Whatcom County's struggles with over the past eight years or more (digesting-lamirds-wonky-long-and-local) is coming to a slow but still a bit bumpy. I can't say if it is representative of any particular land use trend. It is just one square mile randomly selected for historic review.

As can be seen the area was rural in 1950. The predominant land use is pasture and hay, some chicken farms (know this from other historic sources) with scattered farm homes, and tree stands. A few notes on the landscape. The lake in the upper part of the image is Fountain Lake. This lake is located within an old glacial outwash channel. In fact the entire area shown above is located within in an area of glacial outwash channels formed during the late stages of the last glacial period when the glacial ice margin was located a few miles to the north. The younger, lower channels are incised a bit into the older initial outwash plain and these lower channels are mostly filled with organic deposits and very peaty soils. Fountain Lake is of an younger channels that is not quite filled in yet. These younger channels have very organic and somewhat wet soils. The older outwash plain is underlain by gravels and sands with much less organic material in the soils. As the older plain is somewhat elevated, the soils are well drained. The wet organic soils are extend from a bit south of the lake to the north and the well drained elevated old outwash plain covers the are to the south of the lake.  


Not a lot of change by 1961. The markings on the photograph are from a soil survey project that utilized the 1961 photo set. The biggest change is that row crops are now present over a fair bit of the area particularly on the southwest. The tree stands are slightly reduced.

By 1975 more row crop development in the former pasture areas and a bit less trees on the east.

By 1986 a bit more row crop coverage. Larger farm buildings have been built along Pole Road on the south and some small parcelization has increased along the western edge of the area adjacent to Hannegan Road.

Very geometric row crop development. Perhaps the biggest change is smaller lot parcelization with homes on the west side encroaching into areas of former row crops.

2006 (Google Earth)

The pasture on the east side has been converted to row crops. A few more smaller lot residential homes on the southwest as well as some commercial development at the intersection.

2012 (Google Earth)
By 2012 the row crop area on the east has expanded a bit further. The biggest change is on the northwest with a new area of row crops. This area is in organic soils area and there has been extensive conversion of farm land to blue berries in these soil areas over the past ten years.
All in all the biggest change in this little example is the conversion of land from pasture and hay fields to row crops. The LAMIRD on the southwest was parcelized into smaller lot home sites. It should be noted that except for the LARMIRD on the southwest this area is zoned agriculture allowing one home per 40 acres and hence lot divisions has been limited. Past pre zoning lot creation and a period of time when exemptions to the lot creation rules explains some of the smaller lots. 

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