Wildlife committee planning for protection and access

Published on Thu, May 30, 2002 by Christine Callan

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Wildlife committee planning for protection and access

By Christine Callan

The wildlife preservation committee, a five-member sub-committee of the Blaine parks and cemetery board, met Tuesday, May 21 to discuss some of the conflicting ideas for the development of Marine Park. The city of Blaine is in the process of developing a Public Access and Habitat Preservation Action Plan for the northern shoreline of the Marine Drive Extension with the goal of developing a long-term management plan for this rich wildlife area.

The two main goals of the committee are working to create more direct public access to beaches and to enhance and protect the diverse wildlife that inhabits the area. “We have some of the richest habitat in the Pacific Northwest Flyway,” said Terry Galvin, Blaine community and economic development director. Barry Wenger, a shoreline specialist with Coastal Zone Management, was present to discuss how a $10 thousand grant, allocated by the Washington State Department of Ecology, would best be used.

Wildlife Biologist, Ann Eisinger of Nahkeeta Northwest Wildlife Services, presented a Semiahmoo Bay Wildlife Protection Plan, which included an inventory of the site and an analysis of alternatives, objectives and action items. After committee and staff make amendments, the plan will be enjoined with the parks comprehensive plan. It will then go to city council sometime towards the end of this year.

In the report, Eisinger praised the city of Blaine for their good record keeping and plans, but she raised some concern about the zoning and the current use. “All of this is about people management as far as I’m concerned,” Eisinger said. “We have a growing population and I’m concerned about people who are ignorant about the species.”

She said her primary concern was dogs. Despite signs at the park entrance stating that dogs should be on a leash, the law isn’t strictly enforced. Eisinger saw repeated incidents involving people or dogs harassing wildlife on the tidal flats. She suggested monitoring wildlife patterns and public use of the intertidal area for a year to determine the need for public access restrictions.

Enhancing the vegetation was another recommendation Eisinger made. She suggested the ongoing removal of invasive, non-native species such as blackberries, Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife and reed canary grass and replacing them with a natural barrier to protect the sensitive shorelines. She proposed the barrier be made up of Nootka rose, willow, black hawthorn, native crab apple or other thick low-growing shrubs.

Eisinger’s approach is to use natural resources as much as possible. This presented a debate at the meeting when she disagreed with the 2.5 acres in the middle of the park identified for marine commercial use. “Let’s keep it simple. Let’s be practical and use the existing structures for what they were built for,” Eisinger said.

“We know generally what we are shooting for,” Galvin said. “We want something that would enhance the existing park without being in conflict with the preservation plan.” Ideas for developing this area are still being discussed, but a visitor’s center or interpretive museum were mentioned at the meeting. One concern raised by the committee was non-motor boat uses in the area. “The idea is to launch on one of the pocket beaches to the west end,” Galvin said. “It’s really about balance.” Eisinger thought launching kayaks, canoes and other light craft would be okay and wouldn’t disturb wildlife.

Another concern raised was the water quality in Cain Creek, the primary freshwater stream that runs through the central city of Blaine and empties into Semiahmoo Bay. This is a popular area for concentrations of birds and historically, salmon spawning. However, high levels of pollutants have impacted the health of birds and fish that live there and an evaluation of water quality and enhancement potential was suggested. Also, past manipulations and the routing of the Cain Creek outfall prevents fish, and other estuarine species from accessing the stream. Restoration suggestions include looking at the upstream watershed and implementing something to help with salmon and migratory fish. “She (Eisinger) gave us lots of ideas and recommendations that our committee would not have had the expertise to come up with,” said June Auld, committee member.

After Tuesdays meeting, Eisinger led the committee on a walk through the park, spotting bald eagles and other wildlife while pointing out important locations..

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