BELLINGHAM - Visitors to Boulevard Park will find a fence that runs much of the length of the park, cutting off access to a swath of lawn and the shoreline north of The Woods Coffee.
The city of Bellingham has started its $422,079 project to take out the concrete riprap and return the beach to a natural state by replacing the rubble with material such as coarse sand, large rocks, cobbles and beach gravel.
The project will reduce erosion, make getting to the water easier and improve near-shore habitat, Bellingham officials said.
A chunk of the park has been fenced off because material must be temporarily stored on the lawn above the shoreline as crews aren't allowed to stockpile it on the beach, and there also must be room for equipment to maneuver.
"We've got thousands and thousands of yards of material coming in," said Gina Gobo Austin, project engineer with the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department. "That's why the construction area is so big."
The concrete rubble hails from the time when such materials were put down on beaches in the mistaken belief that they would protect them from erosion.
"Now our shoreline experts understand that waves will go right through that material and erode things behind it" or in front of it, she said.
Crews also must work late at night or early in the morning during part of the project, beginning July 16. That's the window the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved for intertidal work, which must occur during low tide and in order to protect fish.
Because of the shoreline renovation - along with work to replace the playground and a sewer line - the Parks Department canceled the popular summer concert series at Boulevard for this year.
"We tried every way we could to think about how we could accommodate construction and have the summer concert series," Parks Director James King said, noting that some summer concerts have packed the park.
"We didn't think it was going to be a good atmosphere," King added, of concert-goers being crammed against each other and up against construction fencing in a smaller space.
The concerts will return next year.
The work, which is being done by P&P Excavating of Bellingham, is expected to be completed by mid-October. It will be paid for with park impact fees and Greenway Levy III funds.
The beach work at Boulevard Park isn't the only parks project this summer.
Crews will begin replacing the worn-down artificial turf at Civic Stadium beginning July 22.
The project, which is expected to be completed by Sept. 6, has a total budget of $480,000 including sales tax and contingency. Money to pay for it will include $180,000 from Western Washington University and $500,000 from the Beyond Greenway levy.
Spinturf of Atlanta submitted the low bid for the project at $399,904, which includes sales tax.
The previous turf was installed in summer 2000 and was expected to last 10 years.
"It's gone well beyond what we anticipated," said Leslie Bryson, design and development manager with the Parks and Recreation Department. "I think everybody understands this has got to be done."
The field is heavily used year-round. The replacement project will mean shortening events, such as the All Comer's Track and Field program, and will affect high school football in the fall until it's completed.
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