Birch Bay is another step closer to getting a county-owned beach park after Whatcom County Council agreed to pay $9,000 for an appraisal of a property on Birch Bay Drive.
The 4-acre property is located at 7954 Birch Bay Drive about a quarter-mile south of Harborview Road. A local group known as the Birch Bay Community Center and Beach Park Committee wants the county to buy the property in order to provide public facilities, such as restrooms, trashcans and parking.
Community plans dating back nearly 40 years have long called for public facilities on the beach, said Jeff Carrington, the
group’s chair. “This is a big home run,” he said.
Future improvements could include a recreational building, playing fields, volleyball court, amphitheater and tourist center, according to a concept submitted by the group. The priority is restrooms, Carrington said.
“This is exactly what I see us using parks funding for,” councilmember Barbara Brenner said. “I think it’s a good idea if we can make it work.” The park’s central location would benefit community members, Brenner said.
The group met with different councilmembers and county officials in early March to lobby for the park. The group did not meet with councilmember Sam Crawford, who was the only abstaining vote for the appraisal.
“The public at large has been left out of this process as far as I can tell,” Crawford said. “This project may have a lot of merit, but it needs to be put through the public process.”
The group has avoided county planning protocol, Crawford added. A group individually meeting with councilmembers and different county departments is highly unusual, he said. Crawford criticized the other councilmembers’ decision to meet privately with the group.
Public meetings on the beach park will be scheduled if the committee receives further commitments from the county, Carrington said. First, the wheels need to be put in motion, he said.
So far, more than 1,000 community members and residents have signed a petition calling for the park. “
That’s the political pressure that’s going to move us forward,” Carrington said. He said he hopes to see the park on the county council’s agenda in April.