Public hearing scheduled for Birch Bay State Park Interpretive Center

Published on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A long-awaited interpretive center in Birch Bay State Park could clear one more permitting hurdle if the Whatcom County hearing examiner approves two permits for the project.

This Wednesday, March 14, hearing examiner Michael Bobbink will consider two permits necessary for the BP Heron Center, as it will be called, to move forward. The center has been in the works since members of Friends of Birch Bay State Park first floated the idea in 2003, Birch Bay State Park manager Ted Morris said.

The hearing examiner has sole authority to approve the shoreline substantial development and shoreline variance permits after a public hearing starting at 1:30 p.m. at the Whatcom County Council chambers in Bellingham.

The center’s namesake, the BP Cherry Point Refinery, has donated $105,000 of the $160,000 collected so far for the construction of the 2,400-square-foot center, Morris explained. Alcoa Intalco Works donated $25,000 while the rest came from smaller private donations.

The center will serve as an educational space for programs the state park hosts for local students and will house exhibits on wildlife native to the area. Morris said he plans to utilize both state park and volunteer labor to build the center and is hopeful construction on the project will begin next spring.

Once constructed, the center will sit near the state park’s main restrooms in the day use area of the park. The building will consist of an open-air, covered meeting space designed for picnics and a fully inclosed meeting room for educational programs. The open air space will face Birch Bay Drive to the west.

The Friends of Birch Bay State Park, the group that sponsors educational programs at the park, first proposed the idea for the center in 2003, Morris said. Members thought the park needed a space where classes could be held during winter or inclement weather, since all current educational programs are held outdoors.


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