Every day Dawn - Dusk
Photo Credit: Wayne Berry
Commonly know as "the fish hatchery," Maritime Heritage Park is currently a work-in-progress -- soon to consist of much more than a fish hatchery, a few trails, some lookout areas and the Shrimp Shack:
An ambitious project to revamp and expand a downtown park broke ground August 1998 in Old Town which will create a pedestrian corridor from Central Avenue by Prospect Street, through Maritime Heritage Park to Citizen’s Dock by Georgia Pacific. A Central Avenue lookout will crown a hillside amphitheater and is currently being constructed in Maritime Heritage Park; lamplit pedestrian paths and waterfront day-use docks are expected to be added along with aesthetic enhancements as city planners, the Port of Bellingham and Old Town merchants attempt to improve the image of Old Town, making it a more desirable stop for families, shoppers and tourists. “This is exciting for us because we’re just getting started,” said Tara Hardesty, a city planner who has helped design and coordinate the project. “It’s not very attractive now, but it will be.”
The project will help enhance the historical aspects of the area, and will happen in three phases during five or six years -- the first two phases will be completed within five years at a cost of approximately $5 million, Hardesty said. Most of the park improvements will be completed by 2000. The project is financed in part by the city’s general fund and by a Community Development Block Grant from the Federal Government’s Housing and Urban Development, Beyond Greenways, Old Town Business Association, private donations and other grants.
The only hitch of the project lies within the third phase -- the day-use docks and the mouth of the Whatcom Creek waterway. In order to allow recreational boaters access to docks off Roeder Avenue, at least a portion of the mud flats below must be dredged. Deemed contaminated, a plan must be drafted by the Department of Natural Resources, City of Bellingham, Port of Bellingham, Georgia Pacific West Inc., Army Corps of Engineers and possibly the state Department of Ecology. Most of these groups will also foot the bill for cleaning up contaminated areas within Bellingham Bay, and costs could range anywhere from $7.5 million to $85 million, according to Port of Bellingham estimates.
Three factors figure into determining the ultimate solution for the clean-up process: First, the outermost part of the channel by G.P. is a federal channel, which will put some of the final plan’s emphasis on commerce and shipping. Also, Whatcom Creek’s chinook salmon run must be considered, as the mud flats are critical to the survival of the salmon. Another factor affecting the plan is a community interest to improve public access to the city’s waterfront. The waterway cleanup will not begin until 2001, and work of this magnitude usually follows a period of public-comment, decisions, and a design phase. Port environmental specialists are leaning toward a plan that will keep the cleanup relatively inexpensive while improving habitat for salmon, crab and other critters; day use access to the docks will also be possible. The challenge lies in satisfying all the competing interests.
From Lakeway, take Holly Street through downtown. It is located in Old Town on the right.
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