BELLINGHAM - Concerns that stalled a long-term plan for Bloedel Donovan Park appear to be resolved, after new language was added to emphasize protections for Lake Whatcom.
Also, one council member who was worried that rowing shells would introduce invasive mussels to the lake is now willing to give the Whatcom Rowing Association the green light for its use of Lake Whatcom, which is part of the park plan.
At a special work session of the council's Parks and Recreation Committee on Thursday, June 21, council member Stan Snapp even said he wanted to accelerate approval of the Rowing Association's new boathouse and launch.
The committee decided to move up the City Council's final vote on the master plan to Monday, July 2. It had been scheduled for July 23.
"I don't want to see our lengthy process ... hold up what they're trying to do," Snapp said at the work session.
The rowing association has its own lengthy process to complete before it can build a 20-by-90-foot boathouse on the west side of the park. One of the project's permits must be approved by the city's hearing examiner, a process that should take about three months.
"There is a lot of permitting, and we haven't started any of it," said Bob Diehl, chairman of the association's board. "July 23, that's almost too late for us to get all that permitting done."
Snapp said in a phone interview he initially had the impression that the Rowing Association's boats would be used in other water bodies and could expose Lake Whatcom to invasive mussels. The shellfish can spread from boat hulls to shorelines, eventually clogging water systems.
The council member changed his stance on the association when he learned that its boats would not be taken to other waters, and the association wouldn't host visitors who would bring their rowing shells to the lake.
"I've been assured by Bob Diehl that's absolutely not the case," Snapp said.
Snapp also had criticized the master plan at a June 4 meeting of the committee, saying the plan didn't give enough consideration to water quality, especially considering that Bellingham residents draw their drinking water from Lake Whatcom. His concerns, and those of fellow committee member Jack Weiss, led the committee to postpone a vote by the full council, which had been scheduled for that evening.
Since then, the plan has been through a rewrite to include more about protecting water quality.
A new goal has been added: "No untreated runoff enters Lake Whatcom," including no phosphorus - a cause of the algae blooms that have disrupted the city's water supply in recent summers.
In summary, the plan calls for stormwater filtering, removal of a concrete wall along the lake, the boathouse and launch, a loop trail and the addition of native plants, such as conifers.
Lawn will be removed to create a more natural gravel beach and increase plant cover to 30 percent of the park area. A $384,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology includes 1,500 plants that will be added to the park.
"We're taking a hard look at trying to find the right balance between use ... and taking care of the watershed," Parks and Recreation Director James King said at Thursday's work session.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2266.