Trillium to provide more open space, trails

Published on Thu, Apr 24, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Trillium to provide more open space, trails

By Tara Nelson

Blaine residents could enjoy improved walkways and better public amenities on Semiahmoo Spit with the completion of a planned 68-unit cottage development.

In a special meeting of the Blaine parks and cemetery board last week, city staff and community members reviewed plans for improving public access, adding new trails and preserving wildlife habitat as part of the mitigation requirements for Trillium’s long-debated Seagrass Cottages II development that was approved in 2006

The plans are one of several final amendments to the project slated for the northeast end of the spit.

Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said the new access plan includes public beach access points, benches, a boardwalk, a waterfront park, additional eagle snags and parking, as well as several uncovered viewing stations and one covered viewing station with interpretive signage and viewing scopes.

In addition to improved public access, Galvin said Trillium had modified its original proposal by lowering building height, decreasing the number of total units and increasing the ratio of open space to development coverage or building footprint. The new plan also calls for planting native vegetation to help keep walkers off the beach and direct them away from wildlife.

“So there were some good things that came out of this, public access being the most critical,” he said. “I’m a strong advocate to get as much public access on that water as possible. It’s going to be a very integral part of what attracts people to this community.”

Blaine City Council voted 4-3 in 2006 to approve Seagrass II, a revised version of the project that would concentrate development toward the northeast end of the spit and keep much of the central section undeveloped and open to the public.

The original project proposed more than 300 units and was rejected by the city council in 2005 because the council found it out of compliance with the city’s 1985 Resort Semiahmoo Master Development Plan. Trillium later appealed the decision and agreed to present a revised version for review.

Since then, Galvin said he has been working with Trillium to concentrate development toward the end of the spit and postpone any new projects until the city can develop an updated master plan for that area, to which the company has informally agreed.

“If our concern is preservation, no development is the preferred alternative,” Galvin said. “But this is Trillium’s land and they have a right to develop it. The manner in which they develop it, however, is something we can influence.”

Some Semiahmoo residents such as Trevor Hoskins who attended the meeting said they were concerned about the possible impact increased human activity would have on the migrating bird populations that use the spit as a valuable resting area.

Others were concerned about the worsening problem of dogs running free, scaring hundreds of migratory birds at a time and leaving excrement on or around the trails.

Hoskins asked Galvin if the city had consulted an expert to study the impact on the birds.

Galvin said the ultimate answer was “yes” and the bottom line was that some damage is inevitable as humans encroach on wildlife habitat. Well-maintained trails and boardwalks with guardrails and shrubbery, however, could keep that encroachment to a minimum.

“In urban areas, it is just as important to have public access as it is to have access for other beasts such as the birds,” he said.

Semiahmoo Beachwalker Association president Tim Johnson said he liked the plan but was concerned about the long-term maintenance as well as the possibility of vandalism in the covered structures.

“It doesn’t rain that much on the spit,” Johnson said. “I question the value of creating such a structure. If people want to be out in the rain, that’s what umbrellas are for.”

In response to a question about public restrooms, Galvin said the plan would not include additional public restrooms since two already exist in Semiahmoo Park at the southwest end of the spit and would likely be included in future development on the northeast end of the spit.

Coast Millennium Trail

The trail network is also part of the Coast Millennium Trail (CMT), a 50-mile, multi-use trail that extends from White Rock to northwestern Skagit County and travels along backroads, existing trails and passes through three state parks.

A second extension of the Coast Millenium Trail is in the works. On April 10, Whatcom County issued a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) compliance review for Semiahmoo Co. and David Evans and Associates to complete a 1,500-foot extension of the trail near the south end of Semiahmoo Parkway west of Shintaffer Road.