Waterfront Inspiration: A little goes a long way

As I wrote recently, a plan years and years in the making, to redevelop 137 acres of waterfront property in the heart of Bellingham once dominated by a Georgia Pacific paper mill, is currently facing a serious threat from a proposal to dramatically increase train traffic, consisting of miles of dirty coal cars, along a railway that separates the waterfront property from the rest of downtown.

And while environmental cleanup of the waterfront, which is underway, still needs to be completed as a top priority prior to any substantial construction, given the coal train threat it seems to me that our community needs to be reminded of just what is at stake in this fight.

And so, when I came across images at designboom of a pier in Philadelphia that has been redeveloped into a waterfront city park, I immediately thought of the very many exciting possibilities for Bellingham.

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I think that’s a remarkably charming and functional use of a mere 50,000 square feet. Imagine what could be done with 137 acres!

I’ve always insisted that it doesn’t take a lot to draw people to the waterfront, people who will want to live there, stroll there, picnic there, and shop there, and I point to Vancouver, B.C., where much of the entire city is surrounded by water, and most of that waterfront provides public recreational access, ranging from lovely narrow parks to simple stretches of bike and pedestrian pathways.

A lot can be done with a little.

Unfortunately, the current poor economy and unresolved disputes over the specifics of the waterfront redevelopment plan remain obstacles to progress there, and I fear that the public needs something better than this old conceptual drawing from several years ago…

…to inspire them to want to protect the waterfront and strongly oppose the coal train project.

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