Bellingham approves plan for new waterfront park

When fully developed, the city’s newest waterfront park would have three beaches for water access; a large, open lawn; children’s play area; a viewing hill; a coffee shop or cafe and 250 parking spaces.

Now unofficially called Cornwall Beach Park, it also could have a business that rents bicycles or stand-up paddle boards, trails and improvements to shoreline habitat.

Those were among the details in the master plan that will guide development of the 17-acre waterfront park. The Bellingham City Council approved the plan Monday, Nov. 10.

The park would be developed in three phases and as money becomes available.

That development, and therefore public access, is at least a couple of years away. That’s because two toxic sites on the property still have to be cleaned up and that isn’t expected to be done until 2017.

“Right now, we need to wait for the cleanup,” said Leslie Bryson, design and development manager for the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department.

The former Cornwall Avenue Landfill and the old R.G. Haley wood treatment plant are the two contaminated sites.

The Washington Department of Ecology is leading both projects under the Model Toxics Control Act .

The city’s trash was dumped there from 1953 to 1965. The proposed plan is to cover the dump site with enough clean dirt to prevent any contaminants from getting in touch with Bellingham Bay marine life or future park-goers.

To the north of the dump site is city-owned acreage once occupied by the R.G. Haley wood treatment plant. The plans for this cleanup aren’t expected to be ready until early 2015.

The master plan also will be coordinated with the proposed over-water walkway, which is waiting federal permits, that would link Boulevard Park to this park.

The City Council’s approval of the master plan doesn’t mean the end of public input. More will occur with each part.

“When we are able to move forward with the design, we will engage the public again to get their input on the specifics for certain phases,” Bryson said.