Blaine End Pier named after retired Port of Bellingham commissioner

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By Jami Makan

The pier at the end of Marine Drive in Blaine has been named after longtime Blaine resident and retired Port of Bellingham commissioner Jim Jorgensen.

The pier, known as the Blaine End Pier, has been named after Jorgensen to honor his 12 years of service to the Port of Bellingham and the citizens of Whatcom County.

“I’m deeply honored,” said Jorgensen, whose contributions to Blaine go far beyond his service as a port commissioner. He served as a teacher in Blaine for about three decades, and was instrumental in the creation of Blaine Marine Park.

Jorgensen was born in Spokane in 1940, and graduated from Enumclaw High School in 1958. After one year at Washington State University, he studied for several more years at Western Washington University, focusing on biology and then geology as part of an education degree.

In 1963, he started teaching in Blaine. He spent five years teaching middle school and 25 years teaching high school. He taught courses including geology, ornithology and astronomy, subjects that were rarely taught in other high schools at the time. “I felt like the luckiest teacher in the world, because the administration was favorable to anything that would improve education in Blaine,” said Jorgensen.

Jorgensen, who twice won state science teacher of the year, was known for the field trips he took students on. With his ninth graders, he would go to eastern Washington to study the rock formations there that were the result of the ice age. “The highlight was seeing all the enthusiasm on the kids’ faces, because many of them had never been there,” he said.

In 1968, while still a teacher, Jorgensen started a salmon charter business. In the summertime, he would take clients out on his boats and furnish them with fishing rods and other equipment. “The first year, I made 18 trips,” he said. “I didn’t know there would be that much business.”

Over the years, his clients included Arnold Palmer, who went out fishing with Jorgensen in 1987 while he was in town for the dedication of the Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club. Palmer caught a 27-pound king salmon.

It was as a fisherman that Jorgensen took an interest in the area that is now Blaine Marine Park. “It used to be a landfill, and there were more rats than you would care to know about,” he said. The city of Blaine was trying to figure out what to do with the land, so Jorgensen approached city council and proposed that they put a one-year moratorium on development, while he helped raise money and generate interest for the creation of a park.

With the assistance of Milt Martin, Jorgensen helped form a foundation of about 45 members, which was eventually successful in securing grant funding to build the park. “Milt had a lot of connections in Olympia, and he helped with the funding and writing of all the grants,” said Jorgensen.

After retiring as a teacher in 1994, Jorgensen was encouraged to run to be a Port of Bellingham commissioner, an elected office. “I was asked to run by people in Bellingham who knew I was an environmentalist and saw the fruits of my labor with the Blaine Marine Park,” he said.

Jorgensen was elected with 72 percent of the vote, and went on to serve three terms. During Jorgensen’s tenure, he helped oversee Bellingham International Airport’s expansion project and worked to secure funding to clean up the site of the former Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Bellingham.

Jorgensen retired as a port commissioner in December 2015. The decision to rename the Blaine End Pier after Jorgensen was made in 2016, by a resolution of the board of commissioners of the Port of Bellingham. The resolution recognized Jorgensen’s “exemplary leadership,” his service as a teacher, his contribution to the construction of Blaine Marine Park and his active involvement in Blaine civic activities.

Due to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and post-polio syndrome, Jorgensen can no longer do the fishing, golfing and hunting that he used to enjoy. But he plans to participate in the Wings Over Water festival, which he helped start about 17 years ago when it was the Brant Festival.

He also enjoys spending time with Patricia, his wife of 55 years. His son, Chris, lives in Blaine, and his daughter, MaryAnne, lives in Japan. “I have a great family,” he said. “I’ve retired three times, so now I look forward to spending time with them and maybe writing a book.”

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