Boulevard Park: A Park that Brings People Together
Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Washington, which is in northwest United States and just north of Seattle, is the perfect afternoon getaway location. The parks features includes a beautiful view of Bellingham Bay and the surrounding mountains, Woods Coffee, walking pathways and bridges, and a friendly environment. The park meets the expectations of people who enjoy going to parks with friends and family for a simple afternoon getaway. The purpose of Boulevard Park is to create a place where the Bellingham community and visitors can go to enjoy the afternoon. Parks all over the country work to connect the community; however this public park is different in that it has something for everyone.
When the first stages of construction of Boulevard Park began, according to Kadi Matherne from the Weston Front “crews had to be wary of contamination…because digging without caution in these areas could stir up harmful material and expose it to marine life” (Matherne) since before the renovation John Servais from Northwest citizen explained how it used to a lumber mill, and had a variety of other sources after that. In the summer of 2013, the city of Bellingham remodeled Boulevard Park and replaced the “Old beach of broken concrete chunks and brought in genuine rock, boulders and sand (Servais).”
On a clear day, if you look north you can see the North Shore Mountains near Vancouver, British Columbia. A Canadian outdoor destination website titled Super, Natural British Columbia, Canada explains that “The North Shore Mountains are comprised of six mountains and two suburban communities…. [And] is the beginning of the majestic Coast Mountain Range, which extends north along BC’s coast and right through Alaska (“North Shore Mountains”).” Looking at these mountains is remarkable, as an outdoor enthusiast myself, they couldn’t be more beautiful. The fact that many visitors often stare at them and point out specific geographical features to their friends proves that they are an asset to Boulevard Park. For instance, when I interviewed Annabelle Barret, a frequent visitor to the park, she explained to me how she enjoys “looking at the snow-capped mountains because she couldn’t see any mountains at home (Barrett).” Views of nature have the capabilities, according to University of Minnesota’s article titled “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing”, to reduce stress and improve moods. Their research has proven that “viewing scenes of nature [can] reduce anger, fear, and stress” (“How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing”) making this place a great place to unwind and enjoy life in the afternoon. The view meets the expectations one would have when admiring nature.
Another feature Boulevard Park has to offer is Woods Coffee; it is open every day from 6:30 am to 8pm. Woods Coffee has a comfy, two-level cabin-like setting with many small tables made for afternoon chats or homework as well as oversized couches for relaxing. The windows lined with white string lights, the tables and chairs made of natural wood, and the concrete floor with a dark glossy texture make the building feel like your living room at home. The building has fast and free Wi-Fi that visitors can connect to and plugins all around to charge your laptop on. However the bathrooms are located outside and are not very clean compared to other coffee shops.
Although compared to other coffee shops the coffee here is pricey — a simple latte can cost up to $4.80 — the atmosphere here justifies the steep prices. Woods Coffee creates an environment more conducive to relaxation than similar cafes because of its friendly staff and social environment. The friendly environment is shown when the person next to me starts small talk when seated close together or asks for recommendations in line. Right now as I sit and write, I see a couple on a date, an old man reading, and many more just chatting with friends. The soft, folk blue music playing in the background drowns out the sound of background conservations and the expresso machines. This place has everything anyone would need to enjoy an afternoon: coffee, treats, Wi-Fi, and right amount of noise.
After you grab your coffee to go, many enjoy taking a walk around the park. If you start walking on the asphalt pathway from the North side of the park you will see barbecues, multiple scattered picnic tables, and a grassy area for get-togethers, but the highlight of the North side, as most five-year-olds would agree, is the huge playground with three slides, a jungle gym, and a spinning swing. The grassy area is large enough to throw around a Frisbee or play a pick-up soccer game and the trees are close enough together along the edges to set up a slackline. However, Boulevard Park is lacking in sheltered areas to take cover from wind and rain. If it is not raining, the North side will meet any groups’ expectations for an afternoon with friends.
Next up is the first bridge along the coast, perfect for taking pictures, watching ducks swim around, or just jogging on through. At dawn or dusk on a clear day, from the bridge you can see a picture-perfect view the sunrises and sunsets. Following that bridge and a short dirt path, close by is another bridge where many stop and look at the Canadian mountains or the hills directly across the bay.
Finally, at the end of Boulevard Park is a small dock is attached to the bridge. The dock is connected to the main trail by a steep and short metal pathway. On warmer days, I occasionally see a couple quickly jump in and climb out of the cold wavy water. However on windy days the waves often crash over the dock and take out everything in their path.
In the afternoon, an ever flowing stream of people takes over the park, especially on Saturdays, since the urban city trail brings many runners, walkers, and bikers from downtown Bellingham to the north or from Fairhaven to the south and many more just drive here. One night when I visited, I watched a pack of fifteen to twenty cyclists ride on through followed by many more pairs of runners. Although sometimes the bikers get pretty close to running people over, the athletic nature of the park adds a youthful vibe.
The collection of people here is unique; there is combination of parents chasing their wandering kids around the playground, people reading books and sipping a hot drink, and young adults playing Frisbee with their dog outside. While others, like the guy wearing Beats by Dray headphones that is scrolling through Facebook, or like the student peering out of his thick glasses studying neuroscience flashcards, or like I who is enjoying a latte prefer shelter from wind and rain inside Woods Coffee. No matter what your preference, Boulevard Park has something for everyone. On the down side since Boulevard is loved and visited by so many, parking can be hard to find, especially on weekends and in the afternoon. Since the parking lot is small and crowded, many park along the road to the parking lots or in the bordering neighborhoods.
As I walk back to my car, the combination of everyone, including the toddlers screaming on the playground, reminds me that even though life is stressful, it is important to getaway and spend an afternoon with others and that parks are a perfect place to do this. Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Washington will continue in the future to be at the top of many local peoples “to go” list as it is a great place to spend an afternoon. Even though it is lacking in clean bathrooms, plentiful parking, and sheltered areas, the combination of views, places to hang out with family and friends, treats at Woods Coffee, and an great atmosphere add up to make up an ideal afternoon destination.
Servais, John. “Boulevard Park Reopens.” Northwest Citizen. Northwest Citizen, 26 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2016.
Matherne, Kadi. “Bellingham near Completion of Boardwalk from Boulevard Park to Fairhaven.” The Western Front. 24 June 2004. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.
“North Shore Mountains.” Super, Natural British Columbia, Canada. Destination BC Corp. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.
“How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Ed. Jean Larson and Mary Jo Kreitzer. University of Minnesota, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2016.
Barrett, Annabelle. “The Atmosphere of Boulevard Park.” Personal interview. 19 Jan. 2016.