Show us your Bellingham! The days are getting longer and more of them are sunny, so it is a great time to snap a few images to submit for our Essence of Bellingham photo competition. We particularly appreciate entries showing people of all ages enjoying everything Bellingham has to offer: indoors, outdoors, serious or silly (like the image above!) Entry deadline is May 1, 2023. See our recent announcement for details.
Public drug use ordinance: In a final vote on Monday, April 10, the City Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting open drug use in Bellingham. The ordinance becomes effective on April 25. While the Council’s action makes public use of non-prescribed drugs a crime, it was emphasized in presentations, discussions and in the ordinance that violators should be referred to treatment services whenever possible — in lieu of jail booking and the traditional criminal legal system — to help address mental health and substance use disorders that may contribute to public drug use. Mayor Seth Fleetwood proposed the ordinance as one tool of many needed to address the growing fentanyl use crisis in our country and our community. The discussion at the April 10 Public Health, Safety and Justice Committee provides an important overview of the complexity of these issues, existing resources and needs for more services, and our focus on assisting people accessing the help they need. Diversion options and services, including existing community response systems, will assist as further services are developed.
Fentanyl use crisis affects us all: Like other crises we face, we all are affected by the growing fentanyl use crisis and Bellingham is not alone responding to it. We join hundreds of leaders in communities across the country who are impacted. Your City leaders are engaged, responsive and compassionate in our efforts to attend to the realities of this crisis and the damage it is doing in our community. We are doing so as quickly as we can in the context of many pressing needs. The data we are tracking shows continued alarming trends. For example, during the first quarter of this year, Bellingham Fire/EMS responded to 198 calls where the primary impression recorded on the medical report was overdose/drug ingestion. That is approximately 2.2 calls per day and a 70% increase over the same time frame in 2022. The Whatcom County Health and Community Services Department recently amplified a national public safety alert about fentanyl use and the emergence of additional lethal drug combinations that are “making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier.” Expect to hear more about City and regional efforts to address this crisis and meanwhile learn all you can about how to protect family, friends, customers, coworkers and others.
Racial equity commission progress: The City and Whatcom County have initiated the launch of the Whatcom Racial Equity Commission (WREC) and are seeking four community members to assist with commission start-up. We also anticipate releasing a request for proposals to solicit for a nonprofit organization to support the work of the WREC. The nonprofit organization selected will, by contract with the county, house the commission and its executive director and serve as an administrative agent to carry out the vision of the WREC as an independent, community-led advisory group. For more details see Whatcom County’s announcement.
Earth Week April 16-23: Join us in celebrating Earth Day (April 22) with activities during the week of April 16-23, 2023. We are hosting free activities for all ages to celebrate, learn about, and restore our planet, including recycled art projects, nature-themed Children’s Storytimes, a volunteer work party at the Sehome Arboretum, themed book lists for adults and children, self-guided tours and more. Find a full list with details at cob.org/earthday2023.
Greenways purchases: Two recently completed property purchases further the goals of the City’s Greenways program by permanently protecting contiguous open space and habitat and providing connectivity for future trail corridors:
- Twelve acres purchased between Cordata Park and Meridian Street will permanently protect high value wetlands and habitat and provide land for part of a long-desired trail corridor connecting Cordata Park to Van Wyck Park. Creating an east-west trail connection linking Queen Mountain Open Space, Van Wyck Park, Cordata Park, Julianna Park, and the East Bear Creek Open Space is a priority project within the adopted 2022-2026 Greenways Strategic Plan.
- Four acres of undeveloped land west of Yew Street were added to North Samish Crest Open Space. This fern-covered upland site is well forested, containing Western Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple, and Douglas Fir trees, and is part of the vegetated riparian corridor along West Cemetery Creek. Existing trails connect Whatcom Falls and Samish Neighborhood residents to the Samish Crest trails and expand the contiguous North Samish Crest Open Space to 116 acres. (Photo below: site visit to the Samish Crest property with Greenways Committee and Park Board members).
Other improvements planned for these sites include removing invasive species and planting native trees and shrubs. For more information, please visit the Greenways page.