The Bellingham City Council has authorized the purchase of nearly 1.75-acres of undeveloped, forested property on Bellingham’s southside located adjacent to a nesting site for resident Great Blue Herons. City purchase of these key properties will prevent future development and help provide protection for the Post Point heron colony, the only known heron nesting site in the City of Bellingham.
The City Council approved the purchase of a 1.43-acre parcel (20 Shorewood Drive) on Monday, March 28, 2022, after approving the purchase of an adjacent .29-acre parcel (8 Shorewood Drive) last fall. Both properties are located in the Edgemoor neighborhood immediately adjacent to the City-owned Post Point property where the heron colony has nested annually since 2000.
Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said keeping these long-sought parcels undeveloped is considered critical to the protection of the heron colony. The properties will be incorporated into a habitat protection and restoration reserve.
“This is the culmination of a lot of efforts and a lot of enthusiasm for a lot of years,” Fleetwood said. “This action is well-grounded in policy, well-grounded in science, and is an exciting opportunity to continue the City’s work to protect the heron colony,” Fleetwood said at the March 28 City Council meeting.
Fleetwood cited a 2019 report prepared for the City that underscored the importance of the colony as a “vital contributor to the resident Great Blue Heron population of the region,” and noted that over the preceding 20 years, the colony had persisted in the same location, supported up to 42 nesting pairs seasonally, and fledged an estimated 1,000 young herons.
The $768,000 purchase of 20 Shorewood Drive approved on March 28 will be shared between the City general fund and Greenways IV levy funds. The purchase of and funding arrangement for this parcel was endorsed by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on March 9, 2022, and by the Greenways Advisory Committee on March 3, 2022.
In addition, the City will accept a $100,000 donation toward the purchase price from the Whatcom Land Trust, and the organization will work with the City on further protections including possible conservation easements on the properties.
The City Council approved the $312,500 purchase of 8 Shorewood Drive at its November 22, 2021, meeting, to be funded by the general fund.
The City has taken numerous steps over more than two decades to protect the colony. The City first commissioned a management plan for the colony in 2003. In 2004, the City Council committed, via Resolution 2004-10, to continuing conservation and protection measures for the heron colony on the City’s Post Point property. The City began annual monitoring of the colony in 2005, and has taken steps to preserve habitat and protect the colony, especially while operating and expanding the adjacent Post Point wastewater treatment plant.
Great Blue Herons are listed as a priority species by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Due to their priority species status, the Post Point heron colony is protected under the City’s Critical Areas Ordinance.
The herons typically occupy the site annually between February and August, using habitats in and around the colony. Herons typically forage within three miles of their nesting site and are known to prefer foraging in the eelgrass habitat of protected bays, such as the Post Point Lagoon. More information about the colony, as well as annual reports and management recommendations, are available on the Post Point Heron Colony page of the City website.