From Pollouted Ruin to Downtown Haven
Walking down Cornwall Street, towards the water at sunset, you can see the out line of what appears to be an unlit extension of the city. A huge building with 8 silos dispersed through out the property, it looks like part of a city skyline. During the day it reveals that it really is an abandoned Georgia Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill. Currently the Georgia Pacific Mill is taking up a large portion of Bellingham’s downtown water front, with no purpose. The mill got shut down in March of 2001 due to the spike in the price of running the electricity in the mill. At one point, according to the Seattle Times the mill was the lifeblood of the city, employing more then 1,200 people, the newspaper actually referred to the closing of the mill as a “Closing of An Era for Bellingham”. In fact the mill was one of the driving forces in making Bellingham as big of a town as it is today. While the company was helping to creating jobs for the community, they were also dumping toxic Methyl Mercury into landfills, and affecting the wild life in Bellingham Bay.
The city of Bellingham has finally gotten a few sturdy options about what should be done with the old mill site. According to the Bellingham Herald, the Waterfront Committee let the community give their input in a public forum, and the feed back was “all very similar” one member told the newspaper, “almost everyone wants to make [the Georgia Pacific site] in to a public space everyone in the community can enjoy.” The most popular option, and the one the Port of Bellingham ended up picking, was to create a new park, essentially this new unnamed park with be a bigger version of well known Boulevard Park, along with a coffee shop attendees will have the pleasure of playing in the wide open field, and children will have a large play structure to play on while moms and dads can look out on to beautiful Bellingham Bay. The two parks are set to be connected with board walk running all the way from the marina, down roughly 2 ½ miles of water front to connect with boardwalk park. The Bellingham community that Wood’s Coffee will get the new bid for this bigger and better version of Boulevard Park has made speculations; citizens of Bellingham have already started demanding the option of brining in something a free standing business, instead of the Whatcom county powerhouse coffee producers.
Some critics of the plan say the renovations will cost too much for not enough reward, they wanted the space to be used to help offset the cost of getting rid of the pollution. The plan for this project is projected to be between 12 and 15 million dollars, a lot of which is going towards the clean up of the methyl mercury left over from the Georgia Pacific mill. The Port of Bellingham stresses that the financial burden will not fall on the citizens of Bellingham alone, about half of the money will come from taxes, but the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the money used for park restoration in Whatcom County is also helping to foot the bill. The actual park is only projected to cost 1.3 million dollars, so why does the total cost of the project get into the double digits you ask? Well the biggest cost is the actual cleanup of the dozens of pollutants in and around the G-P plant.
The pollution is so bad at the Georgia Pacific site, that it is affecting both the animals on land and some of the sea life. In birds methyl mercury reduces the success rate of production, both in behavioral habits, but also from a biological stand point. In a study conducted by the US government, in 160 ibises were fed small amounts of methyl mercury in their food, and 60 percent of the ibises birds started nestling with other male ibises, and snubbed the females, even after they had previously nested with females. This greatly affected the group’s ability to be successful. Biologically Methyl Mercury, Researcher Peter Frederick has said that methyl mercury can affect ibises’ mating patterns, so instead of mating in the spring they mate in late august giving the babies very little, to no time to mature, killing generations of these birds. The sea life being affected is mostly in the Bellingham areas are some species of plankton. The plankton’s ability to photosynthesis is cut in half, not allowing them to grow as fast as normal affecting the amount of algae is in the water, which can kill many other types of the sea animals.
Some of the proposal’s supporters also aren’t happy about the lack of art, and other types of community involvement the plan I slacking. Part of another proposal was to incorporate local artists, and make the area like a sculpture garden on the water, they wanted local artists, and artists from around the world to come and help plan out the space with the Port of Bellingham. The Plans for the space are not set in stone, and they do allow for some flexibility in the floor plan of the park, some art defiantly could be thrown in there. Other supporters wanted to see a farm go in next to the water; they claimed the port of Bellingham wouldn’t have to do as much clean up of the methyl mercury because they plants would soak it up (methyl mercury is only toxic to human when eaten is large amounts).
All in all I think this idea, is a good done, sure it has it’s flaws, but what plan doesn’t? I think this plan is going to allow people from all walks of life to enjoy, no matter what you’re using the park for.