2016 Year in Review, Part 2


• Blaine’s highly anticipated Old Fashioned Fourth of July brought droves of people to downtown. The event featured a pancake breakfast, parade, car show and dazzling fireworks display.

• Blaine-based Customs and Border Protection supervisor Detlef Goellner was arrested after injuring three people in a fireworks accident on July 4. Deputies from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the scene located at the 3700 block of Spring Coulee Road north of Bellingham. Witnesses reported that Goellner was intoxicated and out of control. The accident occurred after witnesses said he threw mortar-style fireworks near a full table of fireworks, which subsequently lit them all aflame.

• Musicians flocked to the G Street Plaza to take part in the Drayton Harbor Music Festival. Previously known as the Blaine Jazz Festival, the week-long event celebrated its 14th year.

• A study released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs revealed a 31.5 percent uptick in the number of crimes reported by Blaine police in 2015. Lisa Moeller, Blaine Police Department records and administrative manager, said the numbers weren’t likely a part of a longtime trend.

• Blaine Senior Center director Dana Hanks announced her intention to retire after eight years of work at the popular community hub. She was a strong advocate for the construction of the Blaine Pavilion, located adjacent to the senior center on G Street.

• Sand was transformed into sculpture during the 33rd annual sand sculpture competition in Birch Bay. A multitude of eager artists got their hands dirty to participate in the local tradition.

• The city ended the month on a colorful note with the first annual Chalk It Up! event on H Street and Peace Portal Drive.


• Drayton Harbor Days rang in its ninth year of community fun. This year, event organizers brought a slew of pirate-themed activities to visitors, including games, crafts, food, a visit from Tall Ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain and the Prestigious George Raft Race.

• Voters in the 42nd Legislative District advanced candidates running for state representative positions 1 and 2 to the November election. Voters narrowed the race for position 1 down to incumbent Luanne Van Werven (R-Lynden) and Democrat Sharlaine LaClair. Incumbent Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) and Democrat Tracy Atwood remained in the race for position 2.

• A series of classic cars stood on proud display during the second annual Rollback Weekend in Birch Bay. The event featured a beer garden, live music and car competitions.

• Public planning efforts behind the design for a new Birch Bay community park kicked off. The public expressed interest in developing a parking lot, restrooms, open space, sports courts and more. The 4.2-acre park is located at 7954 Birch Bay Drive, north of the Birch Bay Visitor Information Center.

• Discover Birch Bay Days and Crab Fest once again captured the spirit of the local crabbing community. The crab derby, crab-themed parade and Discovery Days Dash returned for yet another year of fun.

• The Blaine Senior Center was the scene for an in-depth discussion about the city’s economic future. The meeting acted as one of three held to foster a public dialogue about Blaine’s recent Strategic Economic Initiative. At the time, the city was in the midst of tracking survey results from residents, library users and tourists to gauge the economic needs and interests of the area.

• Blaine’s public works department hosted its inaugural equipment “Roadeo” next to the Blaine Public Library. The event gave the public a glimpse at the daily life of a city maintenance worker and exposed audiences to interactive exhibits, live demonstrations and even an impromptu water balloon fight.

• A proposal to develop a gated community at the southwest corner of Semiahmoo Parkway and Drayton Harbor Road drew wide response from the public,
largely from neighboring residents in Semiahmoo. Bellingham-based Rimland Pacific submitted an application to construct a single-family, and potentially multi-family, residential housing development in the area as well an indoor storage facility, a small commercial center and a park.


• US border officials came under fire for an accused crackdown on past pot use. A variety of public testimony revealed serious implications – including a permanent ban on passage into the United States – for admitting to past use of marijuana. State officials on both sides of the border expressed concern and committed to furthering discussions with border authorities.

• The Blaine Senior Center welcomed a new director after a weeks-long search. Formerly the executive director of the Bellingham-based nonprofit The Alzheimer Society of Washington, Kathy Sitker took on the role with the goal to make sure the folks at the center enjoyed their golden years.

• The Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) asked the public to take the #BookBrainChallenge as way to promote community engagement and library card sign-ups. The social media campaign had people from all over balancing books on their heads while dancing, singing, painting – you name it – all on tape. The challenge corresponded with the national Library Card Sign-up Month.

• A historic Birch Bay home was offered for use as a new public library building. Just a month after the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce’s library committee installed a free library box in town, the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) board of trustees voted to study a possible new library in Birch Bay. Owner Gary Vogt offered the library system or a Friends of the Library organization the 0.86-acre property located at 7968 Birch Bay Drive for $750,000.

• Blaine city staff hosted an end of summer celebration to honor the community donors who helped fund the construction of the Marine Park playground. The nautical-themed playground made its public debut in late October and has since been a hit in the community.

• Bellingham’s inaugural SeaFeast celebrated Western Washington’s maritime heritage with a special celebration dedicated to all things seafood. The three-day event featured an international salmon barbeque grilling contest, maritime tours, cooking demonstrations and ended with a hearty feast of fresh seafood.


• Blaine hosted its first Oktoberfest. The harvest-themed event corresponded with Blaine Harbor Art Gallery’s Art-Oberfest, the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday and the Semiahmoo Resort Oktoberfest celebration. The event featured a community breakfast, a horse-drawn hay ride, Blaine’s Gardener’s Market and more.

• The Birch Bay berm project was delayed for another year due to the county’s continued need to receive easements required prior to construction. As a result, the project will likely be delayed to sometime after Labor Day in 2017. The county had obtained eight easements at the time of the announcement and required 38 more.

• Blaine City Council approved moves to launch a new energy efficiency program for select low-income families in Blaine. The weatherization program is sponsored by Whatcom County’s Public Utilities District No. 1 (PUD-1) and offers five to six low-income families the ability to make their home more energy efficient at no cost.

• Blaine school district’s Family Service Center, which provides low-income and homeless students with necessary school supplies and services, reported an increase in demand. In 2015, 51 students experienced a housing crisis and as of October, 21 students in housing crisis were reported for 2016.

• A power surge at Blaine High School prompted a four-day closure. The surge caused damage to the school’s electrical room and left the high school campus without power.

• Tom Beckwith revealed the results of two surveys released to the public dedicated to identifying the economic needs and interests of residents and library users in Blaine. In all, 420 responded to the resident survey and 223 responded to the library survey. Costs and methods to execute project proposals had yet to be determined.

• Blaine City Council approved an application to develop approximately 20 acres of land at the southwest corner of Semiahmoo Parkway and Semiahmoo Drive. The multi-phase project will lead to the construction of a gated housing community and eventually a mixed-use commercial facility, indoor storage facility and a park.

The Northern Light was honored with 20 awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. Achievement in ad design, editorial, photography and web design were all recognized at an annual meeting in Wenatchee.

• Planners facilitating the design of the new Birch Bay park, located along Birch Bay Drive, got one step closer to forming a final plan. At a third and final public meeting, planners revealed an intention to include 124 parking spaces, a public restroom, beach access and open space with picnic tables, trees and a small play area in the final design.


• Republican nominee Donald Trump raked in a decisive amount of electoral college votes in the race to become President of the United States. Blaine and Birch Bay voters voted strongly in favor of Trump as well as down-ballot Republican candidates. Nationwide, voters also opted to legalize recreational marijuana in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine. Statewide, incumbent Washington state governor Jay Inslee celebrated another victory. U.S. Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene were also reelected. Washington voted in favor of an increase to the statewide minimum wage (Initiative Measure No. 1433), temporary restrictions on gun ownership for individuals with a court order (Initiative Measure No. 1491) and voted against a carbon emission tax (Initiative Measure No. 732) and the establishment of a public campaign finance system (Initiative Measure No. 1464). Locally, Republican incumbents Luanne Van Werven and Vincent Buys were reelected as state representatives for Legislative District 42. Whatcom County’s Emergency Medical Services Levy, which would impose a tax of 29.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value, was too close to call. In late November, the levy passed by a slim margin.

• Birch Bay volunteer Richard Love was awarded the US President’s Volunteer Service Award for lifetime achievement at age 96. Love racked up more than 10,400 hours of service with the Blaine Food Bank to receive the award.

• The city made progress on its pursuit to eliminate derelict buildings and yard waste in Blaine. Community planner Maddie Ottley reported that 91 cases had been resolved since February.

• Locals made efforts to ensure no one went hungry on Thanksgiving. The Community Assistance Program (CAP) provided packaged meals to 275 families from Blaine, Birch Bay and Custer. The Blaine American Legion Post 86 also hosted a community Thanksgiving feast at the Blaine Senior Center and served more than 645 meals and delivered an additional 245.


• Blaine City Council approved a 1 percent property tax increase. The increase was expected to generate just over $10,700 in revenue, in addition to higher receipts resulting from new construction and property improvements. Blaine receives an average 11 percent of the total property tax each

• Recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting restrictions were lifted on 810 acres of Drayton Harbor. The historic announcement came from the Washington State Department of Health after test revealed improvements to water quality. It took more than 20 years for state and county agencies, nonprofit organizations and volunteers to reduce high levels of fecal coliform from the water. A “shell-ebration” soon followed the announcement and joined together many community advocates at the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company, located at 677 Peace Portal Drive.

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