After 12 years of service, Richard Sturgill stepped down as Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 commissioner earlier this month. The Northern Light talked with Sturgill, who began with the district two years after its revival in 2006, about why he chose now to leave the district and his biggest accomplishments. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What are you most proud of during your time as
We started with this basically nothing organization and watched it evolve into a professional park and recreation district that’s really constituent-centric, providing opportunities for citizens. One of the first things we did is get a lease with Whatcom County Parks and Recreation, and took over the abandoned gym at the former Blaine Air Force Station in Birch Bay. With our levy money, we refurbished that building and it became a recreational hub for the Birch Bay area, which was in need of those kind of things, so that was really neat.
What was your favorite
There was an interest in putting in a children’s playground in Blaine Marine Park. They were deciding where it would be and how it would be funded. [The city of Blaine] was trying to do it but it was going to happen like piecemeal. I pledged a chunk of money for the district, hoping the commissioners would see the merits of this proposal and back me up to allow this money to be used. The district voted and passed this measure to provide this seed money to the city of Blaine to get it started.
The playground is used every day and I feel real proud of that. It’s such a neat location with the water there and there’s a pirate ship and a lighthouse play structure. I feel really good about that.
What else would you consider an accomplishment during your time with parks and recreation?
Acquiring property along California Creek that saved the land from development was a real big one. Something I started in the early ’80s was wanting to have a pedestrian bicycle trail along Blaine and Birch Bay. It’s not completed but that’s another one that’s an ongoing process. It takes time but we’re working on it and I feel real good about that.
What memory stands out the most to you?
It was seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and the sounds of their enjoyment playing on the two play structures at the west end of Marine Park. The Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 was instrumental in getting this facility to become a reality. That is what it’s all about and made it all the worthwhile.
Why did you decide to resign now?
At my age, I’m approaching three-quarters of a century years old and it’s time for me to concentrate more on my family. What time I have left for public service I want to use to finish the NN59 Bristol Bay sailboat.
It’s time for someone else to be on there. It’s no reflection on the district at all. All the commissioners are great and have their hearts into it. They don’t make any money, it’s all volunteer. It’s sincerely wanting to improve the recreational opportunities for their constituents.
I’m proud to be a member but it’s time for me to move on. There comes a time in everybody’s life when they need to say, ‘I’ve done it.’ After all these years, I’ve done it. I feel good about it and I’m resigning feeling good about what I did and what I tried to do.
For those who might not know, could you give a brief explanation on the NN59 sailboat?
It’s the NN59 Bristol Bay sailboat. It’s the sister sailboat to the NN79 sailboat that’s housed at the APA cannery museum at Semiahmoo Park.
We’re restoring this 115-year-old sailboat under the U.S. Coast Guard. We’re going to have it totally rebuilt and issued a certificate of inspection like its cousin, the historic Plover ferry. When it’s back in the water, it’ll be able to carry passengers for hire and earn a living to pay for its insurance, the moorage, the captain, the maintenance and all the things that go along with a boat.
It’s going to provide opportunities for people to go sailing and learn about the maritime heritage of our area and have a glimpse what it would have been like fishing or sailing on one of these boats over one hundred years ago. It’s going to be a real addition to Blaine and our tourism industry.