If Point Roberts residents were hoping to see significant improvements in county parks facilities on the Point, they should temper their expectations. In fact, they shouldn’t expect anything for the next five or six years.
Every six years, Whatcom County updates its park, recreation and open space plan in order to be considered for grants from Washington state. The plan sets out the county parks departments plans and goals for the next six years.
Last updated in 2016 and delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a draft plan is expected to be approved by county council in early 2024.
Including a budgeted $168,350 that paid for new roofing and siding at Lighthouse Marine Park last year and planned expenditures in 2025 of $255,000 on parking lot improvements at Lily Point, the county parks department has earmarked just $435,250 for Point Roberts for the period of 2023-2028.
That figure represents just 1.4 percent of the park department’s planned expenditures of $30,275,425 in that same period.
Who’s getting the money? For starters, Birch Bay. The department is planning to $5,858,000 on demolishing the Bay Hostel ($493,000) and constructing the new Birch Bay park ($5,365,000). Those two items alone will eat up 19 percent of the department’s infrastructure budget.
Next on the list is Lake Whatcom which will receive $3,839,000 for a trail head and $1,087,900 for trail development for a total of $4,926,900 or 16.3 percent of the budget.
Silver Lake is up for a lordly $4,676,500 that will be spent on shower and restroom facilities ($4,200,000), roof ($231,000), cabin renovations ($183,700) and demolition work ($61,800). All in all, these expenses represent 15 percent of the six-year plan.
Hovander Park can expect to haul in $147,400 for roofing, $55,500 for demo work, $440,750 for picnic shelters, $262,000 for flood mitigation, $2,400,000 for access improvements, $130,000 for the maintenance shop and $275,000 for a master plan. Total expenditures? $3,710,650 or 12.2 percent of the plan.
Way, way, way down on the list is poor Blaine which can expect to see just $50,000 in investment on a new sewage pump at Semiahmoo Park. At 0.16 percent of the budget, that should be quite the tourist attraction for the park.
Despite persistent calls from Point Roberts residents asking the county to restore the fishing dock and observation tower at Lighthouse Park, build more and better trails, small boat launches, the outlook for local recreation improvements looks dim.
Most recently, the offer by local Tom Carney of floating docks that had been shipped down from Alaska was turned down by the county parks director Bennett Knox. In a letter to Carney, Knox told him that “replacement at Lighthouse Marine Park is not an option that the county is considering.”
He added that the county was pursuing the possibility of a year-round, permanent boat launch within a protected area at the Point Roberts marina. “Marina management has expressed interest in exploring with the county the idea of a public boat launch. The county is awaiting further communication regarding this opportunity and we hope to see some movement by this spring,” he said.
Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce Brian Calder was not surprised by the county response. “I believe that compared to the rest of the county areas and towns Point Roberts can make a case for being discriminated against on several fronts. It is my experience over many years that ‘Won’tCome County’ does not give to Point Roberts, it takes away,” he concluded.
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