Longtime Birch Bay advocate honored for service


It’s hard to find something Kathy Berg hasn’t impacted in Birch Bay.

Decades of dedication are evident in everyday ways of life for the community; she’s had a hand in seeing through the long-awaited berm as well as helped establish the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office neighborhood deputy program and Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management (BBWARM) Advisory Committee. The bp Heron Center at Birch Bay State Park and Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 Activity Center are also standing, in part, thanks to Berg. 

And everything for which Berg assisted sowing the seeds, the list doubles on what she helped maintain and bloom. Those contributions can be seen at North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) and various other Whatcom County government meetings, where Berg kept a close eye on decisions over the years.

However, Berg may be best known for her emails that kept Birch Bay residents informed and earned her the nickname “mayor” of the unincorporated area.

The community joined together to celebrate Berg during the Birch Bay Derby Day parade on August 26, where NWFR escorted her as fire marshal. The fire commissioners also made her honorary fire chief of Birch Bay Fire Station 63 during their meeting earlier in the week.

NWFR chair Bruce Ansell said Berg, who he described as a watchdog, regularly attended fire commission meetings. Berg became involved with NWFR’s emergency preparation work, hiring employees, passing levies and monitoring the budgeting process.

“She was a voice of accountability,” Ansell said. “She was holding [the commission] to their word and saying, ‘You said we need to do this and we need to do that. I’m here to make sure you do it.”

Born and raised in Long Beach, California, Berg and her husband had three sons in California before retiring in Whatcom County. While driving in Birch Bay, Berg discovered the Lions Club at Bay Horizon Park, where she spent several years living and taking care of the property.

Berg said she saw things that needed to be done in Birch Bay during her time at the park. She said her passion for community service comes from being a Girl Scout.

“I would find something that needed to be done and looked like something I could do, so I tried,” Berg said. “And it worked. We got other people to work with us over time. It took the whole community. It wasn’t just me.”

In 1997, Berg met Doralee Booth, then a part-time resident, and the two bonded over concern for overstuffed trash cans that they convinced then Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen to fix. 

“That was the first thing,” Berg said. “We found each other and worked really well together.”

The two cemented their friendship leading the Birch Bay Steering Committee, which created a Birch Bay comprehensive plan that Whatcom County adopted. Berg became active when Birch Bay was the fastest growing area in Whatcom County, Booth said.

After finishing the comprehensive plan, community members said they wanted to address stormwater issues, which later established BBWARM, and wanted to protect the shoreline and create recreational safety by creating the berm, a $15 million project officially known as the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project.

Booth noted Berg also lobbied Whatcom County to purchase the Birch Bay Beach Park and has advocated for a Birch Bay elementary school.

“There was a tremendous amount of protection put around Birch Bay in the way we should grow in the last 20 years,” Booth said.

Carole MacDonald, former president of Mount Baker Chamber of Commerce, said she remembered attending Whatcom County Council meetings with Berg and Lummi Island resident Terry Terry.

“It’s where she lived and it was part of her nature,” MacDonald said.

Roland Middleton, special programs manager for Whatcom County Public Works Department, has worked with Berg since the early 2000s on issues such as water quality and shoreline protection.

“It’s not a small thing to say that so many of those things may not have been accomplished without the energy of Kathy Berg,” Middleton said. “She helped accomplish them by watching them, meeting by meeting.”

Berg always tried to find a solution and would advocate for causes that were important to the community, even if she didn’t feel strongly about them, he said.

“A community can’t ask for a better spokesperson than her because she did it, not for herself, but for the community,” Middleton said.

Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu has seen Berg’s legacy live on in Birch Bay. He echoed similar sentiments to Middleton in a statement, adding that her tireless work ensured community concerns were heard and addressed.

Berg, 80, who now lives in assisted living in Lynden, said she’s looking for someone to take the reins for Birch Bay. Booth said current conversations about changing Birch Bay governance were, in part, set in motion by Berg’s work.

“All of this would be moving forward because of what Kathy has given for the last 20 years,” Booth said. “Now it’s time for some others to care for our community.” 


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