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Plan to add climbing boulders to Whatcom park ‘morphed into an entire sports complex’

Mount Baker Rotary Club building sports park in Bender Field

Mount Baker Rotary Club is raising about $300,000 to put in sports park at Bender Fields in Lynden, Wash. They want to put in a climbing boulder, lighted basketball courts, picnic seating, landscaping, and beach volleyball and pickle ball courts.
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Mount Baker Rotary Club is raising about $300,000 to put in sports park at Bender Fields in Lynden, Wash. They want to put in a climbing boulder, lighted basketball courts, picnic seating, landscaping, and beach volleyball and pickle ball courts.

Bender Fields will soon offer a place in Lynden to play beach volleyball, basketball and pickleball as well as climb boulders, thanks to the Mount Baker Rotary Club.

The nonprofit is closing in on its goal of raising about $300,000 to build what’s being called a Sports Park in the south part of Bender, which currently has fields for soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse as well as a cricket pitch.

Jeff Roberts, president of the Mount Baker Rotary Club, said the original idea was to put in a couple of man-made climbing boulders. He saw such boulders at Smith Rock State Park, near Bend, Oregon, and noticed how popular they were.

But the project grew after conversations with other rotary members and the community about recreational needs and desires in Lynden.

“It has morphed into an entire sports complex,” Roberts told The Bellingham Herald. “They’re going to be able to enjoy a park within a park.”

What’s being built is expected to take up about an acre.

Bender Fields totals 56 acres.

Construction will occur in two phases, starting in the fall with finishing touches in the spring, according to Roberts.

“When this is done, we want the community to be really proud of it,” he said.

The plan is to bring in or build:

Two large man-made boulders and smaller rocks to create a climbing area. The large boulders are expected to be delivered in mid-September from Colorado.

“These things are massive,” Roberts said.

The largest boulder will weigh 18,000 pounds and be 10 feet high, 12 feet long and 7 feet wide.

The second one is 9 feet tall, 6 feet wide and 6 feet long. It will weigh about 10,000 pounds, according to Roberts.

Two basketball courts with NBA-style features including breakaway rims, hoops with adjustable heights and glass backboards, as well as two streetball courts.

A sand volleyball court.

Four pickleball courts. Pickleball is among the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Picnic seating, landscaping, a lighted flagpole and marquee sign to recognize all the corporate donors.

The club also plans to put in lighting for the pickleball and basketball courts, to extend playing time when the days go dark early in fall and winter.

Rotary is about $50,000 to $60,000 away from its fundraising goal.

As fundraising continues, Roberts praised the community, businesses and the city of Lynden for their enthusiasm and generosity.

“They’ve been nothing but green lights and thumbs up, ‘how can we help,’ ” Roberts said of the city.

Other acts of giving include:

When the club showed a short video about the project at its annual auction in April, it raised $102,000 in five minutes. People continued to give more money, allowing the club to add more features.

“A generous Bellingham resident who is passionate about pickleball sent in $10,000 last week to make sure we had enough to build the four courts,” Roberts said on Tuesday, Aug. 13.

LTI will truck the man-made boulders from Colorado itself, a donation that will save the project $7,000 in shipping.

Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis said the Mount Baker Rotary Club’s project will give the many families who congregate at Bender Fields for sporting events a variety of things to do.

Korthuis praised the club for its efforts, noting that most of the money to build the project will come from the private sector with some public money coming in at the end.

“I’m continually amazed at the generosity of the community,” Korthuis said.

To help

Donate and learn more about the Mount Baker Rotary Club’s $300,000 project to build basketball, sand volleyball and pickleball courts as well as a boulder-climbing area to Bender Fields in Lynden by going to its Facebook page and online to mountbakerrotary.com.

Project updates will be posted to the club’s Facebook page.

Donations are tax-deductible.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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