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What’s the Deal With: That closed Fairhaven sidewalk?

Pervious concrete makes for no ordinary pathway

This 8th Street sidewalk is adjacent to a bioretention basin in Fairhaven and is made of "pervious concrete
This 8th Street sidewalk is adjacent to a bioretention basin in Fairhaven and is made of "pervious concrete
By Jaya Flanary Digital Editor/Designer

While walking along 8th Street in Fairhaven between Harris and McKenzie avenues, you may have noticed a sidewalk along the west side with a sign at each end reading: SIDEWALK CLOSED. Why would a perfectly fine-looking sidewalk be closed?

Turns out, it’s not just an ordinary sidewalk. 

Made of “pervious concrete,” meaning it’s permeable, the pathway allows stormwater to soak through its surface where soil filters out pollutants before pipes send the water to Padden Creek.

The sidewalk — or “maintenance access path” — does not meet pedestrian standards and has no wheelchair access, according to the Bellingham Public Works Department, so it is not intended to be used by anyone other than staff for the neighboring stormwater facility. Pedestrians may use the sidewalk on the east side of 8th Street instead.

Built in 2016, the Harris Avenue Water Quality Facility is a bioretention basin that removes 85% of pollutants from stormwater via soils and plants. The $1.28 million project “was funded by the city’s Storm and Surface Water Utility Fund and a Washington State Department of Ecology grant,” Public Works said.

The bioretention basin is one of five facilities in the self-guided Fairhaven Stormwater Discovery Tour — a $50,000 project created by the City of Bellingham in 2019 and funded by an Ecology grant.

WTD is published online Mondays and in print Fridays. Have a suggestion for a “What’s the Deal With?” inquiry? Email us at

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