Local residents show in support of trails plan
By Tara Nelson
About 30 Blaine and Birch Bay residents attended a public hearing Monday to voice their approval of a park and recreation plan that would improve trails and walkability within the city of Blaine and beyond.
The plan, called the non-motorized transportation plan, is an ammendment to the city’s parks and recreation plan, adopted in 2004.
If approved by Blaine City Council, it would provide for the development of trail and bikeway systems, as well as the preservation of open space throughout the community, including new greenways, waterfront access and parks.
City planners said they envision the plan linking together neighborhoods, parks, schools, commercial centers and points of natural, scenic, cultural or historic interest. It would also help link the city of Blaine to the community of Birch Bay and across the border to White Rock, B.C.
Terry Johnston, a spokesperson for the Northwest Parks and Recreation District 2, which encompasses the greater Blaine and Birch Bay urban growth area, said he liked the plan and that its goals would complement the mission of the district to create better connectivity.
He added that, if implemented, the plan could add to the quality of life and ultimately the area’s economic viability as businesses would be more likely to locate here.
“This is an idea of what can be done between now and 20 years from now to make this community more liveable,” Johnston said. “I can remember being down in Portland where they have a trail going from Gresham all the way to downtown Portland, it’s beautiful.”
Pat Madsen, who uses a wheelchair to “cycle” an estimated 2,400 miles on Blaine roads each year, got a round of applause when he told council members improvements are sorely needed to make roadways safe for bicyclists, joggers and walkers.
“The danger is very, very real,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been flipped off, and it’s usually out of state license plates. The worst thing that’s going to happen is people are going to get healthier and businesses are going to locate here. We seem to always be talking about tourism but at the same time, when do we get something that’s going to be for us? What about the ones that are here already?”
Tabitha Thorpe, who said she moved to Blaine three months ago because of the city’s proximity to natural areas, agreed.
“I think it’s a great plan, the reason we moved here was because of the nature but roads here are very dangerous. I’m hoping there is also a way to work with Whatcom County in the future to create more interconnectiveness,” she said.
Council members Jason Overstreet and Scott Dodd said they, too, liked the plan but had some reservations about funding, right-of-ways and private property rights.
“I’m not poo-pooing the plan, but they do very rapidly become the real thing and then we have to find ways to fund it,” Overstreet said. “I would like to see this plan amended to see a funding mechanism built into it.”
The council will make a decision on the plan during their next meeting at 7 p.m. February 9.