By: Wendy Harris (108)

Extracting Profit and Destroying Experience: The Waterfront Plan

Why was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?

Why was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?

By
• Topics:

There is very little to like about the COB waterfront plan, as far as substance or procedure.  And this, I believe, results from looking at the waterfront from an outdated economic paradigm where the focus is on extracting local experience.  According to research, today's tourist wants to spend money on an authentic and enhanced local experience.

Instead of giving up our public tidelands and access to water in exchange for crappy, dense, environmentally harmful shoreline development, more roads, traffic and blocked public views, we could have developed the nearshore and shoreline as an eco-tourism Mecca.

How practical is this?  According to WDFW, very.  Wildlife viewing is the #1 outdoor activity in the U.S., and the fastest growing form of recreation, exceeding hiking, skiing and golfing.  By necessity, it largely occurs on public land. WDFW concludes that wildlife watching is an untapped economic resource.

Over $1.7 billion is spent annually in Washington on wildlife watching activities, mostly in rural areas, supporting more than 21,000 jobs, making it second only to Boeing, and 5.2 times larger than Microsoft's employment in Washington. Wildlife watching yields $426.9 million in job income and generates $56.9 million in state and $67.4 million in federal tax revenues each year.

Compared to commodities, money spent on wildlife watching is second only to the combined value of all field crops. Its value is larger than the value of livestock; and larger than the combined value of all fruits, nuts and berries produced annually! 

We had the largest breeding colony of Caspian terns on the North American coast a few years ago. I say "had" because the port harassed the birds away from the waterfront site. (The same one we were told had zero ecological function so that any development was a net gain.) While they were here, people were traveling, by word of mouth alone, to see the birds, and scientists from Oregon came here to study them. 

How many urban creeks support spawning salmon, and the stealth harbor seals that slip in to take a big bite out of what a recreational fisherman has caught? Frustration for fisherman translates into delight for tourists, and more work for locals. And few shoreline parks allow people to observe harlequin ducks, Barrow's goldeneye, and playful otters within a relatively close range. 

We could have developed the waterfront as a natural shoreline, a sight more rare and precious than the usual waterfront development one finds in Puget Sound. The waterfront was already publicly owned, and we were already obligated to cleanup the contaminated sites.  We could have protected wildlife and habitat and provided the public with the parks they desired, all at a significantly reduced cost... so reduced, in fact, that no fire sale to developers would have been needed.  And perhaps that is exactly why this option was never on the table. 

How do you spell "missed opportunity?"

About Wendy Harris

Citizen Journalist • Member since Mar 31, 2008

Dick Conoboy

May 27, 2014

This article reminds me of my visit this Memorial Day weekend to the area around Monterrey, CA.  People flock to what used to be “Cannery Row” to visit shops selling cheap souvenirs and tacky clothing and dine (?) out at such wonderful places as Bubba Gump’s shrimp restaurant. At least they had the decency not to name the place Bubba Steinbeck’s.  The only saving grace is the Monterrey Aquarium.  Perhaps Bubba can set up shop here and peddle his “jumbo shrimp” in the shadow of the Granary Building.

Read More...

Helen Brandt

May 27, 2014

Right on Wendy! My friends’ (transplanted escapees from southern California) favorite activity is walking the Squalicum Harbor dock and web locker areas to watch the fishing people working. Have we noticed how people gravitate to the undeveloped beach areas at the end of Cornwall Avenue and at Squalicum beach?  They sit staring out at the water and islands, watch the ducks, geese and seals, or walk at low tide looking for interesting items. Why would travelers from the land-locked Midwest want to spend their precious vacation time around high-rise condos, densely clustered upscale stores or hotels (think Bellwether) when they could watch real fishing and crabbing people at work. And have quiet space to watch the bay, wildlife, clouds and islands. Bellingham would be smart to not imitate other over-developed waterfront cities. The potential here is unique.

Read More...

Tip Johnson

Jun 07, 2014

Don’t get me started on the waterfront plan.  It is an abject fraud that I seriously think a several folk ought to go to jail or at least lose their jobs over.

However, Wendy, I find you maybe the most valuable community resources for work like this.  You know where to find the line and are not afraid to cross it to make your points.  Obviously, that is going to draw some fire from time to time.

I hope you are circumspect enough to consider the source(s) and let the riff-raff’s drivel roll off your back like a well-preened duck.  Thanks again!

Read More...

George Dyson

Jun 09, 2014

Not to mention that by de-authorizing Whatcom Waterway, we are rendering downtown bellingham forever inaccessible to the deep-draft (and even medium-draft) sailing vessels (and future hybrids)  that enabled downtown Bellingham to thrive in the first place, and, given the opportunity, might have done so again.

Read More...

Barbara Perry

Jun 11, 2014

I agree with Helen Brandt:  “Right on Wendy!”  and Tip Johnson: “…Wendy, I find you maybe the most valuable community resources for work like this. “

You clearly state what I, as a life time Washington and Whatcom resident have always felt: “…we could [should] have developed the nearshore and shoreline as an eco-tourism Mecca…”
However Now we must look at ”…crappy, dense, environmentally harmful shoreline development, more roads, traffic and blocked public views.” 
Unfortunately, your words are too true for most of our council members to heed.
Thank you Northwest Citizen for publishing Wendy’s important articles.  I hear and hope Council members read NW Citizen and heed more of Wendy’s ecological advice

Read More...
To comment, Log In or Register

Extracting Profit and Destroying Experience: The Waterfront Plan

By Wendy HarrisOn May 27, 2014

Why was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?

5 comments, most recent 7 years ago

How Park Improvements Generate Heat

By Wendy HarrisOn May 26, 2014

City park improvements have implications on the local and global scale.

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago

The Trojan Slaughterhouse and the Scrivener’s Errors

By Wendy HarrisOn May 18, 2014

Reckless rezones and far-fetched explanations result in more slaughterhouses and meat packing plants

3 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Bellingham’s 2013 Water Quality Report: The Facts But Not the Truth

By Wendy HarrisOn May 13, 2014

Bellingham’s annual water quality report indicates that city hall’s propoganda machine is going strong

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Threatened

By Wendy HarrisOn Apr 21, 2014

The public needs to support city council and request that a waterfront habitat assessment include terrestrial species and habitat connectivity.

Tell County To Expand Scope of EIS Review for Plants and Animals

By Wendy HarrisOn Apr 01, 2014

Please help us protect county wildlife by ensuring that the scope of the EIS review is adequate. A sample scoping letter is included.

Public May Comment On EIS Scoping For County Comp. Plan Until April 7th

By Wendy HarrisOn Mar 31, 2014

The public has a week to comment on the scope of issues reviewed under the EIS.

My State of the Lake Report for 2014

By Wendy HarrisOn Mar 28, 2014

On March 26, 2014 the city and county provided their update and assessment on the status of Lake Whatcom. This is mine.

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Propaganda Replaces Public Information:  An Analysis of the Lake Whatcom TDML Process

By Wendy HarrisOn Mar 17, 2014

The public is not provided with a proposed plan or adequate information prior to the annual “state of the lake” meeting

4 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Not Being Protected as Promised

By Wendy HarrisOn Feb 24, 2014

We were led to believe the city would review waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity. It turns out that the city intends to focus only on nearshore fish.

Wendy Harris on Citizen Journalism

By Wendy HarrisOn Feb 22, 2014

Accepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.

Bellingham Seeks “Flexibility” To Sell Wholesale Rural Sewer Services

By Wendy HarrisOn Feb 09, 2014

The mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.

3 comments, most recent 7 years ago

The Hidden Costs of Costco

By Wendy HarrisOn Feb 09, 2014

Costco imposes indirect costs on our community that are as real and tangible as road construction expenses.

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

Have You Exceeded Your Right To Information?

By Wendy HarrisOn Feb 01, 2014

Filing a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Port Memo Addresses Marina Fraud Allegations

By Wendy HarrisOn Dec 20, 2013

A Port of Bellingham internal memo tries, but fails, to justify changes in cost estimates for alternative marina sites.

5 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Lummi Influence Over the Waterfront Planning Process Continues to Grow

By Wendy HarrisOn Dec 17, 2013

Army Corps advised DOE that it will not issue a waterfront permit without Lummi approval

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago

On Monday, City Council Votes “third and final” Approval of Waterfront Plan

By Wendy HarrisOn Dec 07, 2013

Local activist calls on Bellingham City Council to table the unpopular waterfront plans and engage in meaningful public process

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

By Wendy HarrisOn Dec 06, 2013

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Waterfront Development Bonus Yet Another Bad Idea

By Wendy HarrisOn Nov 30, 2013

The waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

City and Port Ready To Act on Waterfront Plan

By Wendy HarrisOn Nov 29, 2013

A number of important issues need to be resolved before waterfront planning is complete, but the city council and port commission are ready to act.

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago