Whatcom County has been much in the news, often for good reasons. Here’s a roundup of recent reviews and ratings:
Great place to live
Low-hazard area: Whatcom County has the seventh-lowest score in the nation for man-made environmental hazards, according to RealtyTrac, a national source of real estate information. The firm ranked the 578 largest real estate markets based on five hazards: percentage of bad air-quality days, number of Superfund sites, brownfield sites, polluters, and former drug labs per square mile. Whatcom County averaged zero bad air-quality days annually in recent years, and was below the U.S. average in the other categories.
Healthy college town: Bellingham ranks 50th among healthy college towns in the U.S., according to Best Value Schools. Researchers gathered data about 185 metropolitan areas on physical activity, depression and other health markers as a guide to the best places for college students to maintain good physical and mental health while advancing their education.
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Retirement haven: Bellingham was the runner-up as the best place for a “Well-Rounded Retirement,” according to Money Magazine’s 2015 retirement guide. Money said Bellingham was known for being “artsy, outdoorsy, and innovative,” with job opportunities at high-tech firms, green energy start-ups, and craft breweries. Outdoor recreation and educational opportunities also were a plus, with high housing costs a downside.
Happy and healthy: Bellingham was the 12th happiest and healthiest city in the U.S. in 2014, according to Business Insider’s review of federal data. Researchers asked people about measures of “life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.”
Big among small cities: Bellingham ranked 47th out of the top 100 places to live among the best small to mid-size U.S. cities in 2015, according to Livability website. Notable assets were access to the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades, a lively arts and entertainment scene, top-quality health care, and plenty of educational opportunities.
Food and drink
Collegiate ice cream: Mallard Ice Cream placed fourth on a list of 50 “Great College Town Ice Cream Shops” compiled by Great Value Colleges website. Reviewers rated Mallard high for its fun and colorful ambiance, and for its use of fresh, local and organic ingredients for its handmade ice cream.
Top farmers market: Sunset magazine gave Bellingham Farmers Market the top spot among 10 farmers markets in the West. Sunset called the market one of Washington’s biggest and most beloved markets, with a strong crafts scene and special activities for kids.
Beer haven: Bellingham placed eighth among the 10 Best Beer Cities in 2014, according to Livability. Rankings reflected the production and consumption of beer, award-winning breweries, and the percent of people drinking more craft beer than macro-brews. Bellingham, in particular, was cited for its quality and diversity of local craft beers.
Campus winner on the hill
Masterful university: Western Washington University is the highest-ranking public, master’s-granting university in the Northwest, according to the 2015 ranking by U.S. News & World Report. Western also ranked second among top public master’s-granting universities in the West, a region stretching from Texas to the Pacific, for the second year in a row. The ranking put Western 21st among the top schools in the West, which includes both public and private schools.
Friendly to veterans: Western was named a “Military Friendly School” for 2015, putting it in the top 20 percent of higher education institutions nationwide, according to The Military Friendly Schools website. Western offers a range of services for veterans through its registrar’s office, and The Associated Students has an active Veterans Outreach Center.
Affordable online: Western rated ninth among the 20 most affordable online colleges, according to the Affordable Colleges Foundation. Western’s online cost per credit hour was $250. The most affordable school, University of Florida, charged $129.
Good value: Western ranked 91st in Kiplinger’s list of the 100 Best Values for public colleges in 2015. The magazine ranks colleges for education and economic value by looking at admission rates, percentage of students who return their sophomore year, student-faculty ratio, and graduation rate, along with financial aid and average student debt at graduation.