Local

Bellingham to discuss parking, trailhead for Locust Beach

Joel Townsan of Bellingham pumps up his kite before going kiteboarding at Locust Beach on Bellingham Bay Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. The city of Bellingham plans to build a parking lot and trailhead above the beach starting in summer 2016.
Joel Townsan of Bellingham pumps up his kite before going kiteboarding at Locust Beach on Bellingham Bay Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. The city of Bellingham plans to build a parking lot and trailhead above the beach starting in summer 2016. The Bellingham Herald

The city plans to build a parking lot and trailhead next summer on land it bought on Marine Drive and Locust Avenue to improve parking and public access to Locust Beach.

The project will be on a little over 1 acre. It would end next fall.

The paved lot would have room for about 60 vehicles and help reduce problems caused by cars parking on the shoulders of Locust Avenue and Marine Drive — creating congestion, headaches for neighbors, and concerns about traffic safety.

People can learn more during a public meeting Wednesday, Oct. 7.

This project also will include landscaping and other amenities such as interpretive signs, but a bathroom will have to wait.

“Our priority is to get the parking in. We’d like to do everything, but I’m not sure we have quite enough money to build a restroom and do the parking,” said Gina Gobo Austin, project engineer for the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department.

Construction, without a bathroom, is expected to cost $550,000.

Locust Beach, also referred to as Whirlwind, has long been popular with kiteboarders, skimboarders and other beach-goers.

The city bought the beach from private owners in April 2012 for about $400,000 to improve public access to the water. Located below the mouth of the Nooksack River, the beach just outside the city’s boundaries provides access to Bellingham Bay.

A year later, the city bought the two parcels — one on Marine Drive, the other on Locust Avenue — for $428,200.

Money for the purchases and the parking/trailhead project came from a Greenway levy the voters approved to expand waterfront access and link green spaces.

There is an existing trail that goes down to the beach, but it’s a little way away from the proposed trailhead. The idea is to connect the two by improving the shoulder along Locust Avenue so people can walk there.

Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks said the parking lot should help alleviate parking problems, including along Marine Drive.

“It can cause a traffic safety issue,” he said.

As the city continues toward its plans for Locust Beach, including making it friendly to families, Austin sought to remind people that the beach is now in public hands.

That means no alcohol, beach fires or camping.

“We’re going to crack down on that kind of behavior at the beach,” she said.

Those have been long-standing problems, prompting calls to law enforcement.

“It’s a strain on our resources to get down there,” Parks said.

Other issues are trash, trespassing and loud noises at night from people partying on the beach.

“Residents there have certainly had legitimate complaints,” Parks said.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

Meeting info

What: Public meeting to discuss the city of Bellingham’s plans for a new trailhead and parking lot at Locust Beach. The city, which is asking for input, will show designs and answer questions.

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Where: Fireplace Meeting Room in the basement of the Municipal Court Building at 625 Halleck St.

Details: Go to cob.org and type Locust Beach Trailhead into the search window. Or email gaustin@cob.org.

  Comments