Ron Judd

Talkin' toxics, death by multi-zone seating and big rocks

CDN's Reader Mailbag spilleth over
July 21, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
An interpretive trail linking Bellingham's industrial past, including Waypoint Park's "iconic" Acid Ball, right, with the city's waterfront future, is still on local planning dockets, with some improvements expected as soon as this summer. But long-term funding remains elusive.
An interpretive trail linking Bellingham's industrial past, including Waypoint Park's "iconic" Acid Ball, right, with the city's waterfront future, is still on local planning dockets, with some improvements expected as soon as this summer. But long-term funding remains elusive. (Ron Judd/Cascadia Daily News)

Executive Editor

Stuffed to the gills, is the CDN Big Reader Mailbag — which, upon inspection, has not been cleaned out since … March

Sad! But, well, we’ve been up to stuff. Let’s get right to the catching-up part:

Q: A recent CDN piece about yet another hulking metal industrial relic (the big red wheel on the corner of Holly and E streets) raised the possibility that similar items might become icons on a new Port of Bellingham segmented trail. Two questions: 1) Is this an actual thing and 2) Why?

A: Yes it is! Searching through the Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time file on local public government websites, we uncovered a detailed consultant’s concept, circa 2018, for the Bellingham “Waterfront Heritage Trail,” a joint city/port project. 

The plan suggests linking buildings, hulking metal objects (including the already universally adored, “iconic” Acid Ball!) and other “historic resources” related to the city waterfront’s industrial past, all lined up on a path of knowledge/interpretation/possible rage.

The path, aside from providing an opportunity to get the hell outside, could meet the pent-up demand from residents to enjoy the outdoors in such a way that one is never able to forget (for more than a few minutes) the various things that once fouled the air, polluted the bay, and strip-mined irreplaceable natural resources.

All fine goals!

From the plan: “As part of a vital, mixed-use area, the Heritage Trail will appeal to locals from a range of backgrounds and age groups — from millennials, to families with children, to retirees.” 

The self-guided interpretive path might start at Waypoint Park and loop around the old Georgia-Pacific property, perhaps incorporating the existing path around the old GP treatment basin, known locally as the Toxic Sludge Trail. 

The grounds’ various large buildings and hulking metal objects, according to the study, “… will inspire curiosity in visitors, begging the questions: ‘What is this?’ and ‘What was it used for?’” 

No doubt whatsoever. (See: Iconic Acid Ball, above, and also City Hall.)

photo  In keeping with Bellingham's "re-use" focus, rusty industrial relics might go from the scrap heap to interpretive use in a proposed waterfront interpretive-trail project. Planners anticipate well-placed industrial objects “… will inspire curiosity in visitors, begging the questions: ‘What is this?’ and ‘What was it used for?’” (Image courtesy of the Heritage Trail Concept Plan)  

The project has languished somewhat and dropped from view, but is still an active plan, said port spokesman Mike Hogan, who described the scoping document as a “road map” for an ongoing process. (In a rare moment of urban-planning straight talk, the concept plan conceded: “Due to budgetary concerns it may not be possible to undertake all of the interpretive elements outlined in this document.”)

Short term: The city is designing an “extension” of Waypoint Park with a trail connecting Roeder Avenue to Laurel Street, with construction set for next year. And the port continues to incorporate existing industrial objects, such as giant steel log rollers now serving as bike racks at the Portal Container Village, into the overall theme (signs promised this summer). 

Our take: This all sounds fine, but an edgier name and theme might draw more search-engine eyeballs and Instagram hits. Perhaps: “Tox Walk: Stepping Through Time (and Sludge) of Bellingham’s Industrial Past.” Discuss among yourselves. 

Note: We kid the city. And the port. A little.

Q: Has your wife’s car killed you yet?

A: No. But please check back. (For new readers or the 62% of you who spent the winter in Arizona: This is a reference to a previous column in which I related a new Hyundai — oh snap, did I write that name out loud? — automobile seems to be trying to crush me to death via its “customizable” motorized-seat settings.) 

Not to be paranoid, but in renewing my own vehicle insurance recently I also checked out additional coverage for theoretical slow suffocation death-by-steering-wheel-chest-compression eventualities.

Q: What’s with the big trucks carrying often single large rocks right through downtown Bellingham?

A: We have visited this subject before, but rock-truck activity has picked up again after a lull, and shoot, there are lots of new folks around. So please see our earlier reportage on this subject by CDN local government/hip-hop/gigantic-rock reporter Ralph Schwartz.

It involves moving giant boulders out of the westside Cascades to Bellingham’s port for barging for jetty construction at the mouth of the Columbia River. 

Important non-amusing side note: This week, yours truly witnessed two of these behemoth semi rigs, side by side, literally drag racing at what appeared to be a rapid rate of speed in an apparent attempt to beat yellow stoplights while southbound on North State Street, right through the busy Holly Street intersection. What could possibly go wrong? 

Q: About a month ago, you wrote another column about the City of Bellingham’s “SeeClickFix” public works app and an urgent request you put in for decades-overdue road repair at a major freeway intersection that’s often the first glimpse of Bham enjoyed by out-of-town visitors. Any progress there?

A: Nope!

Q: Do you write all these questions yourself?

A: Well, not entirely.

Q: It seems like we’ve been lucky so far this summer to avoid the Canadian wildfire smoke that has plagued much of the rest of the country. Is this likely to continue? What are the prevailing trends?

A: Dude. Are you high? You just … put the leading That Which Shall Not Be Discussed Question right out there to the universe? We arguably are contributing to the delinquency of discussion by even publishing this question, but such is our commitment to civic discourse.

In a feeble attempt to mitigate the impending damage, I am not going to even begin to answer this question — or even acknowledge its existence if asked by karma auditors. 

Ron Judd’s column appears on Fridays;; @roncjudd.

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