Updated late night, June 2
I went to the Greenways Advisory Committee meeting at 7 pm this evening, based on the agenda posted online at the city website. That agenda now displays below this article. Above is the revised agenda that Leslie Bryson, the city Parks Director, brought to the meeting. Note above that the executive session to consider an “acquisition matter” and the followup vote are both missing. As of now, on looking at the city website, the original agenda is still posted. Perhaps tomorrow it will be replaced with the agenda actually used tonight.
The meeting led me to despair of any action by the Greenways committee to purchase the needed buffer woods for the Great Blue Heron colony in south Bellingham. I was chastised more than once during the time I had to speak, being told I had misunderstood the resolution last month. Bryson explained how the process to study and decide on the land acquisition could take a year or more. Indeed, I learned the parks department has been studying one or more acquisitions for almost two years now and is not yet ready to make a recommendation.
While I was answering one question, a committee member interrupted to know why they were allowing this guy to “take over their meeting”. I replied, sorry, no problem, and retired to the side of the room and basically spoke no more.
The committee showed a lack of knowledge about the situation. They felt the area already protected and that the property owner could not develop inside the buffer area. Gentle reader, this is very false. The city fell short of finalizing the conservation area back in 2004 - as explained in the article a couple days ago. The committee was confused on where the nests were and even where the buffer areas were.
Bryson said she had visited the planning department on Tuesday afternoon to see what development might be possible in the buffer area and planned to have a report for the committee next month. Bryson reiterated to the committee that the $4 million of funds freed up by the cancellation of the over-water walkway were now earmarked for the GP industrial area and not available for acquisition of land.
I was the only guest there to speak. There were two students attending on assignment to watch a public meeting. The committee started 10 minutes late after they waited for a quorum - but only 5 of 11 committee members showed up. On the agenda was approval of the March and May minutes - which could not be done because there was no quorum. Interestingly, the March and May agendas were never posted to the city website. See screen shot below.
It became very clear that there will be no action by the Greenways committee this summer. The next step is to see what the city council does this next Monday, June 6. The council can act on their own without permission from Greenways or the Parks Department. I will attend to speak during comments. Hope others will join me. The herons need human advocates.
Below posted 3pm Thursday, June 2
This evening, Tuesday, June 2, at 7 pm, the Greenways Advisory Committee will meet at the Bellingham Municipal Court Building. On the agenda is basically one item - an executive session and followup public vote on a land acquistion issue. You can bet your bippy they are reconsidering their May resolution to purchase the buffer woods by the heron colony.
The meeting is at the Bellingham Municipal Court Building, 625 Halleck Street, Bellingham, WA (for those who use their smart phone for navigation)
Remarkably, the mayor's office and the parks department are apparently against the purchase of the buffer woods with Greenways funds. Leslie Bryson, the new parks director appointed by Mayor Kelli, told me directly that the funds freed up by the cancelling of the over-water walkway project are ear marked for cleanup and development at the old Georgia Pacific site - and not available for any land acquisitions. Leslie is scheduled to attend tonight's meeting.
It goes without saying, but I will say it. If we value our Great Blue Herons along our shorelines, creeks and trails of Bellingham then we would be wise to provide the recommended buffer woods to their colony of nests. To their home. The experts on herons recommend it. Nothing is guaranteed, but the intelligent thing to do is protect the herons if we value them. My writing about this will be ignored by the city departments. It is only if citizens, and prominent citizens, urge the council, mayor and parks to act that there is a chance.
I will be attending and reporting on tonight's meeting. Let us hope it is not a reversal of the committee's May endorsement to use Greenways funds to purchase the critical buffer woods next to the Bellingham's only Great Blue Heron colony.
Attached is the agenda for tonigh's meeting as a pdf file.