Dean Kahn

8 reasons to stay in Bellingham

Quick access to the outdoors, such as Boulevard Park on a summer evening, is one of several reasons that people enjoy Bellingham.
Quick access to the outdoors, such as Boulevard Park on a summer evening, is one of several reasons that people enjoy Bellingham. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

I came across another “list” story about Bellingham, yet one more example of a checklist created by someone far away that mostly relies on other website ratings for content.

The story, “8 Reasons to Move to Bellingham, WA” appeared at, the home to numerous such ratings.

The writer, it appears, is based Tennessee, which might explain several oddities in the story. She mentions Blaine and Lynden in the section about Bellingham’s “diverse neighborhoods,” and includes Blaine’s Wings over Water Birding Festival and Cloud Mountain Farm Center’s fruit festival near Everson among special events worth seeing in Bellingham.

But rather than merely throw dirt at others, I decided to give it a go with my own list.

First, a bit of disclosure: I’m not originally from Bellingham, so I’m not a born-and-raised native. But I have lived here for more than half of my 64 years. During that span, I have left Bellingham several times, but I have always returned happily.

So I don’t feel shy about listing my “8 Reasons to Stay in Bellingham:”

Size matters: With 82,000 people, Bellingham is small enough to feel familiar but large enough to provide variety and change. Certainly by Seattle standards, our traffic is still quite manageable. As much as we like to grumble, it really doesn’t take all that long to travel from one end of the city to another.

Nature nearby: I’m not talking about climbing Mount Baker or sailing the San Juans. Many people do that, but many more don’t. I’m talking about Bellingham’s many parks and trails. About Lake Padden and Lake Whatcom. About parks on the bay. About forest walks in and close to the city. A touch of green, a tranquil spot, a whiff of salt water, is never far away.

Easy to get around: Bellingham is increasingly friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists, both good options to autos, even if you aren’t a hard-core walk or biker. And don’t forget Whatcom Transportation Authority, a wonderful bus system for a city our size.

Literate folks: Bellingham’s libraries are well-run and well-used, and that’s just one part of a great literary scene. Other parts include a top-notch independent bookstore, Village Books, several outstanding used-book stores, a slew of reading and writing groups, and a local poetry contest with the community at heart.

Social services: Bellingham faces social challenges like other cities, but the array of public and nonprofit groups working here to help people get back on their feet is heartening. The Opportunity Council, Lighthouse Mission Ministries, and Bellingham’s housing levy are just a few that come to mind.

Local businesses: From Bellingham Farmers Market, to programs to put some teeth into growing and eating local food, to broader “buy local” campaigns, people appreciate and support locally owned companies. And that includes the recent proliferation of craft breweries.

Living green: Repairing and respecting the environment has been a signature feature of Bellingham for decades. The city was an early leader in curbside recycling and in banning grocery carryout bags. Many groups work on behalf of salmon, streams, and ways to reuse materials. Green is a way of thinking in our naturally green setting.

Northwest weather: Bellingham’s weather isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I lived in the Midwest for several years, and I’ll take our cool, wet winters and our maritime summers anytime over the harsh extremes elsewhere.

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or Read his columns at

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