One of Bellingham's most beloved City parks on the waterfront received some major improvements this past spring and summer, including a new playground and the recent completion of a new sand and gravel beach. We encourage you to get out to Boulevard Park during the fall and winter months to play.
The new playground replaced old, worn out equipment, but kept the same maritime theme providing Bellingham's youngsters with a ship complete with a helm, cannon, port holes and sea monster slide. The new playground is situated within the footprint of the previous playground and was completed in June 2013, using $90,000 in Real Estate Excise Tax funds. All aboard the S.S. Bellingham!
The shoreline improvements at Boulevard Park were completed in October 2013, providing a wonderful beach for public enjoyment. The City hired consultants with expertise in marine biology to design a new park shoreline and beach that would both protect and enhance the park. The shoreline was designed to eliminate erosion, combat sea level rise, enhance wildlife habitat and be a place for people to play.
The shoreline renovation project began with removal of existing concrete rubble along the park shoreline. The pictures of pre-existing conditions on the project webpage show how ineffective this concrete rubble was in armoring the shoreline against winter storm surges. High tides and waves were infiltrating the large pieces of concrete and eroding the park's shoreline out from underneath, making for a flooded trail during winter months and constant maintenance to keep the shoreline and adjacent trail and park infrastructure safe and accessible.
Boulevard Park was largely built on landfill and has been slowly sinking into Bellingham Bay over the years. New rock revetments were constructed and extra beach material was brought in to raise the level of the shoreline by several feet to combat sinking and sea level rise. The revetments also reach into the water at an angle to reorient the face of the beach toward heavy storm surges, protecting the park from further erosion.
Placement of sand at the top of the beach leading to cobblestones and to gravel at the water's edge was purposeful. The sand at the top of the beach is intended to be played with. We hope that park patrons will build sandcastles, play volleyball and sink their toes in the sand. Placing the sand away from the water's edge ensures that it won't wash away in high tides or storm surges.
The placement of gravel at the water's edge was also intentional. Waves hit the shoreline and are absorbed by the gravel, which is just heavy enough to stay in place while the water washes through and travels back out to sea. The gravel also enhances conditions for the near shore surf smelt population. Surf smelt is a fish species that is protected under Hydraulic Code Rules and serves as an important source of nutrients for seabirds, marine mammals and a variety of larger fish, including salmon. The new gravel beach protects the surf smelt population's natural habitat from eroding sediment, which improves their chance to thrive.
The Boulevard Park shoreline restoration project was paid for with Greenway Levy III funds and Park Impact Fees. Complete shoreline renovation at Boulevard Park is included in the City of Bellingham's Comprehensive Planning document and permitting agencies have already approved future phases of work to renovate the entire park shoreline. Future work is dependent upon funding, but will ensure that Boulevard Park is protected from erosion, habitat is improved and the water is accessible for many years to come.
We welcome you to enjoy Boulevard Park this fall and winter. The water, the waves and the fresh scent of salt in the air beckon park visitors year-round to venture out, rain or shine, and enjoy this jewel on Bellingham's waterfront.
Published: November 12, 2013