Impressive list of projects slated for NW park district
By Jack Kintner
The Northwest Park and Recreation District took steps Tuesday to re-establish itself in Blaine and Birch Bay by hiring an office manager, leasing office space and beginning to collect together an impressive list of programs that they hope to bring off this summer.
The district was given new life last fall when voters passed a two-year levy that will generate over $500,000 in revenue between 2008 and 2009. These same voters almost killed the district in the 1980s in rejecting a proposed swimming pool, but in 2001 attempts began to revive the district, culminating in last fall’s vote.
The new office manager, whose name was not available at press time, was selected from among 27 applicants. By Tuesday night’s board meeting the list had been reduced to four who were given interviews, and the selection was made in an executive session that followed the public meeting.
Commissioners also voted to lease office space at 380 H Street beginning May 15. “That’s good visibility for us,” said commissioner Jeri Smith of the site that’s still too new to have a phone number.
Commissioner Terry Johnston ran through a list of almost 30 different program proposals from local and area instructors, some of whom are volunteers, others who will be contracted to teach specialized subjects and others who will be employed directly by the district. Proposals range from tennis lessons and rocket building to language classes and a beach volleyball league.
Commissioners also discussed ways to work cooperatively with the Lions Club Camp Horizon Foundation, the Blaine Parks Board, Whatcom County Parks and Drayton Harbor Maritime.
Some of this is already underway, such as on-going work to develop recreational fields and trails at Bay Horizon Park that are anticipated to be ready sometime in 2009 as well as supporting and expanding water-oriented recreation working with such programs as Drayton Harbor Maritime’s community sailing program that coordinator Ron Snyder said will be underway by next month.
“When agencies like this work together a lot can get done with minimal cost to the taxpayer,” said commissioner Terry Johnston.
Smith echoed Johnston’s sentiments, adding that what she has heard “loud and clear from voters is that they want green spaces, trails and recreation, especially a trail from Birch Bay to Blaine.”
To get the over-all program underway and give it some shape, commissioners voted to hire consultant Paul Koch of Hood River, Oregon, to complete the $20,000 master plan.
According to commission chair Ted Morris, this is an essential ingredient for the district to be able to apply for state and federal grant money to support its program as well as construction projects such as some proposed recreational fields at Bay Horizon Park, still very much in the planning stage.
Johnston said he hopes to have a brochure ready to describe this first season’s program sometime in June. “We’re still pretty new, trying to blend everything together,” he said.
Commissioners Richard Sturgill and Betty Robertson round out the present five member commission. Eight years ago the effort to revive the district was led by former commissioner Christy Olason Impero, former Blaine city council member Steve Dodd and Blaine school district employee and high school girls fastpitch coach Don Ambrose.
The three ran successfully to fill out the commission, along with hold-overs Pat Alesse and Brian Johnson, and from that grew a proposal for a two-year levy of 10 cents per $1,000 valuation.
According to a “pro” statement in the county voter’s pamphlet, the levy would “generate $385,000 each year for parks, sports fields, bicycle trails and recreational programs for all ages.
The district intends to partner with the city of Blaine and Whatcom County to improve existing parkland in both Blaine and Birch Bay.
Voters gave the plan more than 60 percent approval in last November’s election.