Part Two: The Man with the Plan

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Editor Note: The June issue of the All Point Bulletin featured the first of a two part interview with local resident Brian Calder. The first half may be found online at bit.ly/3jfAR4u

As president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, Calder has been indefatigably working on behalf of the community advocating for the border to be re-opened. He has  spent countless hours contacting media outlets and has been interviewed dozens and dozens of times in attempting to break through governmental stasis and ineptitude.

All Point Bulletin: You say that the current planning rules prevent us from what its meant to achieve: small, artsy-crafty businesses on the ground floor with residences above. But that’s not the only thing holding back development on Gulf Road. What about the drainage problems and the inability to use septic systems?

Brian Calder: Well, I go back to the wetland idea. You take all that water that floods Gulf Road and direct it to the water district land to the south. But the problem is getting through to the county. You can’t get them to listen to anything. We approached them to talk about helping out during emergencies. When there’s a big wind event, the county looks after their area first and then they get to us about a week later. We pointed out to them that in the meantime, the county has all this equipment just sitting around doing nothing. Snowplows, front-end loaders, backhoes etc. It just sits there. We suggested that the local community should be able to use it.

The fire chief would run the program and the local contractors would volunteer to operate the equipment. Why don’t we have a small works roster, insured, trained, etc. so when there’s a tree down, the county could hire someone to clear it out. Nope, can’t do it, they say.

But going back to sewers, did you know that the U.S. border station is connected to the Delta sewer system? It’s been connected to the Greater Vancouver Sewer and Drainage District for over 10 years. The city of Abbotsford has been shipping part of its effluent to Sumas for quite awhile and the Tsawwassen First Nation has an agreement with the GVS to manage all of the sewage from its commercial and residential developments.

What we need is to have Whatcom County look into entering an agreement with the GVS to connect Point Roberts to their system. Instead of building a $12 or $15 million sewage treatment plant, we’d probably only need four pump stations to get it up and over the hill.

Because of our distance from the rest of the state, Point Roberts has had for many years contracts to provide other services such as water and electricity.

APB: A number of local projects have been proposed to be included in the county’s economic recovery plans to take advantage of federal assistance money such as a seasonal ferry or reviving the Gulf Road pier project. What do you think of these ideas?

BC: Well, the ferry would be a walk-on with bicycles at best. It’s skimming the top of the problem, it’s not a base core economic driver idea. The chamber of commerce has already proposed that the Port of Bellingham should buy the marina. They’ve got plenty of money. The marina property comprises 200 acres of which only 100 are used for a fully functioning marina. The rest could be sub-divided using federal post-Covid recovery money for recreational uses like a motel or other uses that would support the marina operation. They could also develop the air strip to improve access to Point Roberts and that would be extremely significant.

APB: What else could the Port do?

BC: For one thing, they could build a public boat launch inside the marina breakwater. They could provide parking and encourage the development of amenities. If you look at their other properties, they have restaurants and hotels right next to their facilities.

APB: Other than the chamber, what other groups do you belong to?

BC: I don’t do meetings unless they set a goal and accomplish it. Here, the groups don’t accomplish anything. I’ll give you an example. I approached one group who will remain nameless and said, you’re all in favor of more trees, right? Well, your approach is punitive, you’re not proactive. I’m in favor of trees, I’ve got 250 of them on my place. I’ve been in touch with the [Washington State Department of Natural Resources] and they’ve 1,000 acres in eastern Washington they use to grow seedlings for re-forestation.

We could get 200-500 seedlings and bring them in for about $1,000. I said I would pay for them and they could be planted up by the water tank at Baker Field. You could involve the school kids and the fire department. When people need trees, they could go up and transplant them. Nothing. I heard nothing back from them.

APB: You’re 80 years old. What makes you tick?

BC: Well, I always want to get things done, always have. Try to help, it’s not all about you. For too many people, it’s all about them. That’s why I chair Dollars for Scholars and have for the last five years. It helps the kids and we do precious little here in Point Roberts for them. What are we doing to nurture and develop the kids?

Thanks to Fern Peltier and the other directors, we have at least tripled the number of students and the amount we give them. It helps them get out and see other opportunities and if they get a good education and if they choose to come back, great. But if they don’t, at least they’ve been exposed to other opportunities and allowed to flourish.

I’ve always been a doer, not a yapper.

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