Year in Review: A look back at a year that just was (July through December)



• Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 (BBBPRD2) welcomed new activity coordinator Kaileigh Hubbard.

• The Birch Bay berm task force considered path restrictions for bikes and electronic scooters.

• Blaine City Council gave final approval to the Drayton Reach plat that will create 39 lots in the Montfort Park neighborhood. The city will also create a new park and trail with beach access to Drayton Harbor in the area.

• The city of Blaine celebrated its annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July with an unofficial car show, street vendors, live music and kids games. 

• Teams tackled the Ragnar Road Northwest Passage, a 200-mile relay running race from Blaine to Langley, at Peace Arch Park July 9.

• The city of Blaine sent a cease and desist letter to a local landscaper for doing unauthorized landscaping on city property without the city’s permission and posting it on YouTube.

• Kids cooled off from the summer heat by running through sprinklers in downtown Blaine streets during BBBPRD2’s Splash Days July 16 and July 30.

• As Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, some local government meetings such as the Blaine school district and Port of Bellingham started offering in-person options in addition to virtual attendance. 

• Blaine City Council amended the 2021-22 budget to include $1.5 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and committed $6 million to fixing the dilapidated east Blaine sewer system in 2022. The city set aside ARPA funds, federal Covid-19 stimulus money to offset revenue lost in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, to pay for things such as a utility bill relief program for people unable to pay their bills. 

• Blaine and Birch Bay businesses followed a trend nationwide of battling with short staffed restaurants as they opened to full capacity. 

• The Bligh Island, a derelict 1930s fishing vessel, sank off Point Whitehorn while being towed from Blaine Harbor to Bellingham.

• The Community Assistance Program clothing bank opened to the public in its new location at the former Freedom Community Church.

• Peace Arch State Park weddings continued throughout the summer for cross-border couples unable to travel freely between the U.S. and Canada.

• Blaine’s Black Forest Steakhouse temporarily closed for six weeks due to staff shortages and sent its employees to help at sister restaurant CJ’s Beach House in Birch Bay.

• Blaine City Council unanimously voted to rescind the proclamation of emergency, first enacted in March 2020 to help the city manage pandemic response.

• U.S. border patrol chief Rodney Scott visited Blaine.

• Birch Bay’s annual Rollback Weekend and Sand Sculpture Competition returned July 23-25.

• Unemployment claims return to prepandemic levels in Whatcom County and Washington state.

• Whatcom County Council prohibited the building of new refineries and shipping facilities at Cherry Point.


• Voters rejected the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue levy lid lift in the August 3 primary election.

• The Blaine Community Theater returned to the stage for its first performance since the pandemic to showcase the “Pirates of Penzance” water balloon show during Pirate Daze. 

• The B.C. Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported methamphetamine seizures at the U.S./Canada border increased 110 percent in 2020 from the year before.

• Birch Bay beekeeper Ruthie Danielsen purchased the first Asian giant hornet nest found and eradicated in the U.S. to further education on the invasive species. The nest was displayed at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden before it would be displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

• New Blaine Police Department officer Katelyn Weaver was awarded a life-saving service award for helping save a man’s life in a car crash.

• Real estate excise tax revenues soar during high housing demand.

• Blaine Senior Center welcomed new director Gordon MacGregor.

• Governor Jay Inslee mandated state and private health care workers needed to be fully vaccinated by October 18. Whatcom County and the city of Blaine did not make mandates for their workers.

• Unions representing the Canada Border Services Agency employees reached an agreement with the Canadian government August 6 after a work-to-rule campaign backed up about 100 trucks on I-5.

• The Canadian border opened to nonessential travel from fully vaccinated U.S. residents on August 9 as long as they took a PCR Covid-19 test within 72 hours of crossing the border.

• Blaine City Council returned for its first in-person meeting since the pandemic on August 9.

• The first live Asian giant hornet was spotted in east Blaine, which eventually led Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) scientists to discover the first nest of 2021 in east Blaine, one-quarter of a mile from the nest found in 2020.

• A surge in the Delta Covid-19 variant and cross-border travel caused Whatcom County providers to see double the demand for testing. 

• About 50 parents and community members assembled outside of the Blaine High School cafeteria to protest governor Jay Inslee’s mask mandates on August 25.

• The completion of the Birch Bay berm was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony August 21.

• Blaine City Council meetings return to being only held online until the state’s indoor mask mandate is lifted for fully vaccinated individuals.


• The Blaine Police Department searched for funding options to start its body-worn camera program that is required in 2022 under new Washington state law.

• Discover Birch Bay Days returned for its 42nd year and brought three days of family activities.

• The Peace Arch celebrated its centennial September 6, albeit no official celebration because of the pandemic.

• The Blaine school board requested Whatcom County officials listen to community members against the state’s mask and vaccination mandates in a September 7 letter.

• A Federal Railroad Administration report cited vandalism as a likely factor in the December 22, 2020 Custer train derailment.

• The ninth annual Run with the Chums was held at BP Highlands September 11.

• An unofficial ceremony at the Peace Arch paid tribute to those who lost their lives and put their lives on the line 20 years prior during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

• The city of Blaine welcomed new finance director Daniel Heverling.

• At least 168 people tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden.

• WSDA scientists eradicated the second Asian giant hornet nest found in east Blaine in 2021.

• Blaine City Council gave final plat approval to the first East Maple Ridge plat, which was expected to have 48 single-family lots and 12 multi-family parcels with 48 units.

• A Seattle jury convicted Ellen Reiche, of Bellingham, charged with one count of violence against a railroad carrier for placing shunts on train tracks in north Bellingham in November 2020.

• Sheila Wood was hired as the Blaine Chamber of Commerce’s new executive director.

• Travel writer and T.V. personality Rick Steves highlighted Blaine in a video series exploring Whatcom County.

• WSDA scientists eradicated the third Asian giant hornet nest found in east Blaine in 2021.

• Blaine school board president Charles Gibson adjourned the September board meeting for one hour after a community member refused to wear a mask while speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting. The meeting was continued later that night online.

• Blaine City Council gave final plat approval to Woodberry, a 29 single-family home subdivision just south of Fire Station 62 on Semiahmoo Parkway that had previously caused public concern on its environmental impact.

• Living Pantry, a zero-waste store that opened in Blaine in 2020, opened a second location in Bellingham.

• Former Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office corrections deputy, ​​Christopher Frederic Baetz of Blaine, was sentenced to one month in jail after he pleaded guilty to smuggling items for a female inmate earlier in the year.


• A single-use plastic bag ban started statewide October 1.

• National Night Out, an annual parade celebrating first responders, returned October 5.

• Friends of the Birch Bay Library members waved signs in support of Proposition 14, a November 2021 election ballot measure that would fund library construction, at busy intersections in Blaine and Birch Bay.

• The Semiahmoo Good Ol’ Boys golf group donated $16,000 to Blaine Food Bank.

• The Washington state Department of Commerce opened a grant program for small businesses impacted by the U.S./Canada border closure. Up to $50,000 in grants were available to businesses that applied by the October 18 deadline.

• Drayton Harbor Oyster Company expanded into the former Kaisacole Seafood Market to add extra bar seating.

• The city of Blaine submitted requests to use Whatcom County’s ARPA funds to assist paying for a $2.5 million sewer rehabilitation project in the Lettered Street neighborhood and $500,000 for a North Harvey Road water pump station.

• Skeers Construction, Inc. and Land Development Engineering and Surveying, Inc. held a public meeting on the Mott’s Hill Overlook project, an east Blaine neighborhood that would create 54 single-family homes.

• A federal judge sentenced Samantha Frances Brooks, of Bellingham, to six months in prison after she pleaded guilty to interfering with a railroad signaling system in north Bellingham in November 2020.

• Whatcom County Council voted 4-3 to create a no-shooting zone in Drayton Harbor within 1,000 feet of the shoreline just days before hunting opened in Drayton Harbor October 16.

• Washington State Department of Transportation closed the Custer rest stops again after they were temporarily closed earlier in the year because of lack of resources.

• Members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 165 requested Whatcom County stop its plans to demolish the Northwest Annex, a 1920s Tudor-style building on Smith Road and Northwest Drive.

• Blaine school district had 40 fewer students on the first day of school than it did in 2020, the lowest the district’s enrollment had been in five years.

• BP announced it plans to invest $269 million in three projects at the Cherry Point that will bring more than 300 jobs in the next three years and reduce the refinery’s carbon emissions and double its renewable diesel production. 

• The Port of Bellingham director of economic development announced two potential buyers were looking at purchasing the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter in Ferndale.

• Blaine school district finance director Amber Porter said in the October school board meeting that the district has the funds to purchase a property in Birch Bay where a future school could be built.

• By the state’s October 18 vaccine mandate, local organizations such as the Blaine school district, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue and PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital had exempted some staff who were not fully vaccinated.

• Tony Andrews, owner of Tony’s Just A Bite, decided to leave Blaine after nearly 40 years of owning restaurants in town. 

• Whatcom County Council unanimously voted to reverse its decision to create a Drayton Harbor no-shooting zone, leaving nothing changed after two years of debate in county council. Council chair Barry Buchanan attributed treaty rights as part of the new decision. 

• The Blaine school board voted to terminate the employment of a cheer coach after she didn’t meet the school’s exemption accommodations for the vaccine mandate.

• Blaine City Council extended the utility moratorium by one week, until the first week of November, to give customers behind on payments during the state’s utility moratorium one more chance to pay their bills or create a repayment plan.


• Voters rejected the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue levy lid lift for a second time in the November 2021 election.

• Proposition 14, which would have established the Birch Bay library capital facility area to fund construction of the Birch Bay library, was 26 votes away from meeting the supermajority threshold needed in the November 2021 election. Whatcom County Library System officials announced it would be on a special February 2022 ballot.

• U.S. congresswomen Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Pramila Jayapa (WA-07) demanded a formal apology from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after officers detained almost 100 Iranian-Americans in January 2020 at the Peace Arch Border Crossing.

• Southwest Airlines made its inaugural flight into Bellingham International Airport November 7.

• The U.S. opened its border to nonessential travel from fully vaccinated Canadians on November 8. However, Canadians still were required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test when returning to Canada. 

• U.S. congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) visited Blaine stores to see the border town open for Canadian visitors.

• Blaine City Council voted unanimously to use $118,000 in ARPA funds to pay for a G Street pavilion.

• A New York City investment group acquired Chuckanut Bay Foods in a $6.6 million purchase.

• The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9474 and American Legion Post 86 honored military members in a Veterans Day ceremony outside of the Blaine police station.

• The Washington state department of commerce awarded Covid-19 relief grants to over 100 Whatcom County businesses impacted by the U.S./Canada border closure.

• A civil case between Smuggler’s Inn owner Bob Boule and a U.S. Customs and a Border Protection agent was announced that it will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court and could potentially expand first amendment rights.

• State senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after arriving in El Salvador and asked Republican state legislators for help receiving treatment. He then took a medevac flight to a Florida hospital. 

• Severe flooding closed Blaine and Birch Bay roads November 15. The flooding devastated other parts of the county, forcing hundreds of evacuations along the Nooksack River. Governor Jay Inslee declared a severe weather state of emergency for 14 counties impacted by the heavy rainfall. 

• Canada dropped the Covid-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated Canadians taking trips less than 72 hours into the U.S. on November 30.

• Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) announced she would run for the 42nd Legislative District seat in the state senate.

• Volunteer support poured in for Whatcom County residents impacted by the severe flooding in mid-November.


• Holiday Harbor Lights returned for a day-long celebration.

State data showed most school employees across the state who received vaccine exemptions were for religious reasons. Ninety percent of Blaine school district employees were fully vaccinated and eight percent received a religious exemption.

• Blaine City Councilmember Richard May and Bellingham resident Joe Timmons announced they would run for state representative in the 42nd Legislative District.

• Pierce County resident Gary Vernon Johnson pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in a July 2020 crash on I-5 that killed his brother, Blaine resident David Bruce Johnson.

• The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) awarded the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility a 2020 Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award.

• The Blaine school board adopted a second redistricting plan after a push from Birch Bay residents concerned about representation. The plan will give Birch Bay two of its own districts, Blaine two of its own and one split between them.

• Blaine school district board vice president Laura McKinney resigned from the board and announced she and her family are moving out of state.

• Gary Slavin, owner of The Rustic Fork Eatery, opened Gateway 1890 Taphouse & Grill in downtown Blaine.

• Blaine Police Department arrested a 12-year-old after graffiti threatening a school shooting was found in a Blaine Middle School boys bathroom. This came after other Whatcom County schools had school shooting threats.

• Harbor Custom Development, the developer for Horizon at Semiahmoo, announced it was in contract to purchase Grandis Pond from Blossom Management.

• State senator Doug Ericksen, a longtime conservative member in the state legislature, died December 17.

• Smuggler’s Inn owner Bob Boule pleaded guilty to helping people cross into Canada through his bed-and-breakfast. Boule will serve 30 months of probation.

• A federal judge sentenced Ellen Reiche to 12 months in prison for one count of violence against a railroad carrier after she tried to place shunts on railway tracks in north Bellingham in November 2020.

• Governor Jay Inslee sent a request to President Joe Biden to declare November’s flooding a federal emergency major disaster.


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