By Ian Ferguson
At their regular meeting October 28, Whatcom County Council unanimously approved the expenditure of up to $2.5 million to acquire the 4.11-acre Vogt property in Birch Bay for development as a beachside park and community center.
The money will come from the county’s conservation futures fund, which can only be spent on acquiring land for parks and conservation. Before voting, several councilmembers expressed their enthusiasm for the future park.
“I think this property really could be a cornerstone for the community, and I admire the efforts of the Birch Bay residents who worked to make this a reality,” councilmember Ken Mann said.
“The property may be relatively small, and the price may be high, but the value is there. This is really an optimal property,” councilmember Pete Kremen said.
The property is located at 7954 Birch Bay Drive, just north of the Birch Bay Visitor Center. An independent appraiser hired by the county set the market value of the resort commercial-zoned property at $2.4 million in July. Project manager Tyler Schroeder estimated closing costs to be
A centrally located park in Birch Bay with restrooms and parking has been included in community plans dating back to 1977. Last spring, Birch Bay residents convinced county council of the need for a beachside park including restrooms and parking, and the council authorized Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws to spend up to $9,000 to appraise properties in Birch Bay.
Through several public meetings with the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Commission over the summer, Birch Bay residents debated which of two properties was best suited for a park, and the commission ultimately decided on the Vogt property.
Councilmembers urged the Birch Bay residents in attendance to remain diligent in engaging partners and finding grants to make sure the park is developed to its full potential. After the meeting, Birch Bay resident Doralee Booth said progress has already been made in planning for the park.
“Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2, the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations are committed to helping develop and maintain this park,” Booth said. “We’re thrilled that the council voted to buy the property. It’s going to be huge for the future of our community.”