By Oliver Lazenby
Planning will start soon on Birch Bay’s long-awaited community park.
Whatcom County Council voted unanimously to hire the Robert W. Droll Landscape Architect firm to design the Birch Bay Community Park for $50,000. The park is located at 7954 Birch Bay Drive, on the east side of the road just north of the Birch Bay Visitor Information Center.
The Lacey-based firm will hold three public meetings after it does some initial site analysis and planning work. Tentatively, that will occur in the next four to six weeks, said Rod Lamb, design and development supervisor at Whatcom County Parks and Recreation.
Aside from a requirement for parking and restrooms, the park is a blank slate for the firm. Robert Droll said the park’s design process will be shaped by public input. The park property is a 4.1-acre lot the county bought in 2014 for $2.5 million with money from its Conservation Futures Fund.
The firm’s resume includes design work for sports complexes, urban plazas and forested parks throughout the state. The firm hasn’t worked for Whatcom County before, Lamb said, but it has worked for the city of Bellingham – most recently as a design consultant for Squalicum Creek Park.
“Parks are what we do,” Droll said. “Ninety-five percent of our projects are in public parks.”
Droll, whose firm was chosen out of five others, said he liked the project’s location.
“It’s a nice site. It has fantastic views,” he said. “I like waterfront projects. It’s across the street from the beach but in my mind and, in others I’m sure, it’s viewed as a waterfront project.”
Under the contract, Droll must finish the park’s design by the end of the year, if not earlier, Lamb said.
The county will determine a construction schedule once the design is final. Lamb said construction likely won’t start until after the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project, also known as the Birch Bay Berm, is finished. That project is expected to be finished in spring 2018.
The $50,000 for hiring Droll came from the county’s Real Estate Excise Tax II fund. The county doesn’t currently have money lined up to build the park, but county staff are applying for two $615,884 state matching grants that would reimburse the county for money spent on acquiring the land and could help fund construction, Lamb said.