By Stefanie Donahue
Not even a grinch could stop local volunteers from decking Blaine in holiday decor last week.
On November 17, James Patrick Kelly, 51, was arrested on suspicion of theft in the third degree after he dismantled and attempted to drive away with crab pots that had been used to build a Christmas tree at Blaine Marine Park.
Volunteers had spent hours building the holiday tree earlier that day after discovering that approximately 70 crab pots had already been stolen the night before.
As part of Blaine’s Holiday Harbor Lights festival, volunteers intended to construct the tree using 130 crab pots that had been donated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to the city of Blaine last year.
On November 16, the crab pots were moved from an offsite location to Blaine Marine Park so volunteers could get an early start, said volunteer Debbie Harger.
When the volunteers arrived at the park on November 17, they learned that already about two thirds of the pots had been stolen the night before, she said. But despite the setback, they proceeded to construct a Christmas crab pot tree out of what remained. The pots were staked to the ground, zip-tied together and adorned with Christmas lights.
That made no difference to the Grinch. Hours after it was complete, Kelly arrived in a pickup truck and began dismantling it. He had loaded about half of the remaining pots onto the truck and was preparing to go when Blaine police officer Jake Farrer arrived at the scene and arrested him.
The following day, the volunteers returned once again to the scene of the crime and spent about four hours reconstructing the tree, said Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 program manager Heidi Holmes. “We were really discouraged,” she said. “We were determined to put it back together again.”
A resident of Deming, Kelly was arrested and issued a ticket, said Blaine Police Department administration manager Lisa Moeller. Since then, he’s helped the police department find and return to the city 40 of the 70 missing crab pots, which are worth about $40 to $50 apiece, she said. “We are continuing to investigate,” she said. “We want to recover them all.”
Kelly is due in Blaine Municipal Court on Wednesday, December 6, she said.
Photos by Stefanie Donahue, Ruth Lauman and Louise Mugar.