Remembering Trav Skallman
By Jan Hrutfiord
Trav Skallman started working for the city of Blaine over 50 years ago. He knew the city parks as well as anyone, from a historic point of view - he helped lay the foundation for many of the parks we have today.
In February 2002, I visited with him in his apartment at Stafholt assisted living area, and asked him about what was under the surface of Marine Park. He had plenty of answers, some familiar, and many I�d never heard before.
Historically, the start of Marine Drive was a three quarter mile long wharf, built out across the tideflats, to reach the channel where large ships could come in to the mills and canneries along that dock.
A railroad track was included and may have been the main part of that dock, built in 1888. Before this dock was built, people coming to the area by boat had to row a small boat, or swim, to get to shore.
The salmon and herring canneries and lumber mills were built out on top of pilings, which jutted out to either side of the main wharf. Blaine was the most prosperous town in Whatcom County in the 1890s.
As fishing declined, trees were cut back away from the shoreline area, the mills were closed or burned. The last mill on the dock area was the Morrison Mill, which stood on much of the area currently covered by the Blaine Marine Park.
In 1935 the wharf was filled in, creating Marine Drive. The pilings are still under the road, and make their presence known by the lumps and hollows in the surface caused by rotting and shifting timbers.
Along the north side of the road, the garbage dump started, from about where the old sewage treatment plant now stands, and worked its way east toward Cain Creek. Much of the filled in area is sitting on garbage from the city of Blaine, which tried to keep the filled area somewhat neat and sanitary by covering it with gravel and dirt.
The oldest part of the dump is at the west end of the park, under the restrooms and toward shelter #3. The larger and newer part of the dump is under the area from where the path goes down to the beach west of shelter #3, to just before the whale exhibit and deck area.
This dump has everything in it; old cars, tin cans, tree and vegetable waste, tires, oil, some transformers, electric meters and appliances - you name it, it�s probably there. There�s also hundreds of wood pilings still under the surface of the park.
The city of White Rock used to complain that parts of the dump would come floating to their shores. Faced with this problem, Trav found a solution - the I-5 freeway was being built through town, and Wilder Construction company ran into a huge problem: solid clay between H and D streets that had to be removed, as it was a gooey mess. Wilder wanted someplace to take this clay, and Trav used it to create a berm 25 feet wide around the garbage dump.
He got a lot of flack about this idea, but proceeded to have the trucks haul the clay, dumping it from the east end of the dump - about where the deck is now, wrapping around the outside edge of the dump to where shelter #3 now sits.
The trucks would back in with the clay, and as they dumped it, it would form a road for the next load to be dumped. The entire berm became a truck road around the outside edge. They stopped the dumping where a huge concrete foundation was situated. This was the foundation for the steam engine that ran the Morrison Mill. Directly to the east of this, there was a pile of brick from the chip burner, which was leveled out to give a solid foundation to the new fill. The shelter #3 is built on top of this huge cement foundation block.
The clay berm worked very well, stopping the erosion of garbage into the Boundary Bay, and is now the foundation of all the buildings east of the shelter #3 to the deck, with the exception of the salmon wall and auditorium, which are on top of the garbage dump fill.
In the 1960s a huge storm washed out much of the Marine Drive, west of the treatment plant. To fill in the washed out areas, large amounts of rock were barged in from Lummi Island to fill it in. (This same area was again eroded by the huge storm in December of 2001, which washed out much of the earlier fill, and was in turn filled in with large chunks of cement, rocks, gravel and sand.)
Trav died May 24. A huge chunk of Blaine�s history has gone along with this remarkable man, who had so many years of service to the city of Blaine.
I thought you�d like to know his part in making the park which we now enjoy so much here at the harbor. Without his ingenuity, it may not have become Marine Park but instead would be a problem area which might still have to be fixed.
Services for Trav Skallman will be held on Monday, June 2 at 1 p.m. at the United Church of Christ in Blaine.