Parks district gives $30k to keep pavilion project afloat

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By Ian Ferguson

In an emergency action, Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 (BBBPRD2) commissioners agreed to give $30,000 to keep the dream of an enclosed recreation pavilion at the Blaine Community Center alive.

The pavilion is a longstanding project of the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County, the Whatcom Community Foundation, the city of Blaine and other community stakeholders who envision a recreation building on the land next to the Blaine Senior Center on H Street. The building would add programming space for the Blaine Boys & Girls Club and be available for other recreational uses.

The $30,000 commitment from the park district came at their monthly meeting April 14 when pavilion stakeholders submitted a last-minute plea for the funds. They said if they did not raise the money by this Friday, April 17, stakeholders would lose a crucial partnership with a foundation that has given $90,000 to the project and agreed to take a lead role in organizing its construction.

Last summer, professional basketball player and Blaine native Luke Ridnour gave $60,000 to the project and connected its stakeholders to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which specializes in building recreational facilities for under-served youth across the country. The pavilion is a smaller project than the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is used to building (they typically build baseball parks), so the contract stipulated that the construction timeline had to coincide with another project the foundation is building in Washington. The contract also stipulated that a certain percentage of the project’s total budget had to be in hand before breaking ground.

At the time of the April 14 meeting, project supporters had raised $444,051, 72 percent of the project’s total budget of $562,000.

“The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation needs that final $30,000 by Friday or they are walking away from the project,” said Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County CEO Heather Powell.

After hearing Powell’s presentation and discussing the proposal, commissioners agreed the circumstances were urgent enough, and the potential opportunity big enough, to warrant an emergency vote to commit funds to the project. Typically an item introduced at a meeting is voted on at a later date, but BBBPRD2 commissioner Jeff Carrington pointed out the project’s stakeholders had been to three prior meetings before presenting the formal request. Based on that finding along with the time-sensitive request and the strength of Powell’s presentation, Carrington’s motion to hold an emergency vote passed unanimously, as did the subsequent emergency vote to commit the funds.

The funds will come from the park district’s $125,000 reserve fund. The Whatcom Community Foundation agreed to cover the $30,000 until the check from BBBPRD2 is processed.

The commitment also means the park district will be able to use the space for its programming needs when practical.

“I see this as a win-win situation,” commissioner Doug Robertson said. “We’ve talked as a board about having a facility in Blaine for our programming, and building our own space is out of reach for us.”

Commissioner Richard Sturgill agreed.

“We really try to do our best to distribute our tax money evenly, and this is an example of how we’re attempting to make our resources equitable for all demographics and geographical areas within our district,” Sturgill said.

Powell thanked the board for the donation on behalf of the project’s stakeholders.

“We all thank you very much, and we look forward to the partnership with Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District, and figuring out how we can bring recreational activities to that facility,” Powell said.

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