Work has begun in Bellingham’s Whatcom Falls Park to remove a decaying but beloved historic railroad trestle.
Crews have until Saturday, Sept. 30 to remove the structure, before peak spawning season for Whatcom Creek’s salmon. The creek is home to coho, chum and chinook salmon, and steelhead and cutthroat trout, according to the City of Bellingham website.
“We understand from the agencies that this work window is the time we are least likely to encounter or disrupt (fish) species of concern,” Bellingham Parks and Recreation Project Engineer Gina Austin said. “This is also the time when creek levels and flow are generally at their lowest.”
Several commenters on a Bellingham Parks and Recreation Facebook post from Aug. 16, announcing removal of the trestle, were disappointed, but parks officials said the structure was beyond repair.
“Many of the pilings are rotted all the way through and have collapsed onto themselves,” Austin said.
The trestle, which straddles the creek, is in a floodway — where structures are not permitted, Austin said. Also, the trestle’s old timbers were treated with creosote, which can contaminate water bodies.
“We know it’s not the worst kind, but it’s not like it’s something that is totally natural that we can spread about,” Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Oliver told Cascadia Daily News in September 2022.
The railway trestle was used to move lumber from the Bloedel-Donovan Larson Mill to the Bellingham Bay waterfront from 1915 to 1959.
City officials are asking Whatcom Falls Park visitors to stay away from the trestle during demolition.
“There doesn’t appear to be any safe viewing area for the public of the work,” Austin said.
Neptune General Contractors of Anacortes was hired to remove the trestle for a contracted amount of $270,368.