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Year in Review: 2022

When we hit the online “LIVE” button for an all-new, digital daily, print-weekly news organization on Jan. 24, 2022, Cascadia Daily News launched with a concerted mission: Fill part of a news void in northwest Washington state with a fiercely independent, locally owned and managed, broad-based publication, shining light on a wide range of local public life. Nearly a year later, we hope that our first 12 months of work show some solid steps in that direction. Presented below is a review of what our newsroom reporters, editors and photographers consider to be the most memorable and important examples of that work — a glimpse at a year in the life of people in a place we are proud to call home. —Ron Judd, executive editor


A rider parades the American flag around the arena during the National Anthem at the Lynden PRCA Rodeo on Aug. 15.

Civic affairs

We referred to it in a recent election headline as the “urban-rural divide.” The two populations in Whatcom County do have their differences. And episodes such as the rodeo at this year’s Northwest Washington Fair, featuring an announcer with certain strong political opinions, can make it seem that the gap between urban and rural is too wide to bridge. But geographical descriptors aren’t really that black-and-white — or, if you prefer, red-and-blue. On the state-government electoral map, mostly rural north Whatcom County has transitioned from all Republican to all Democrat in four short years, culminating with the election of Sharon Shewmake to the state Senate in November. At the same time, the region’s largest city, Bellingham, continued to grow and struggle with issues such as housing, crime, transportation and infrastructure.
—Ralph Schwartz

Kindergartener Claire Hagan, left, tries out a "wiggle seat" while getting a tour of her new classroom from teacher Kalli Kritsonis at Sumas Elementary on Aug. 29. The school hosted a welcome back event prior to the start of school for families and teachers to meet and reunify after months spread apart by the flooding.


Local public schools and higher education institutions have worked hard to return to “normal” operations as COVID-19 becomes endemic. In the fall, the schools celebrated a new year, sans masks and social distancing protocols. But the past year has not been without incidents. Several schools locked down due to bomb and shooting threats, others recovered from flooding and Bellingham Public Schools continues to grapple with allegations of three assistant principals’ failure to report a high school student’s sexual assaults. Through it all, schools managed to pass important levies and bonds, open up new school buildings and continue to educate the next generation. Up at Western Washington University, the school is reevaluating aspects of its own legacy, while also dealing with downturns in enrollment amid efforts to expand.
—Hailey Hoffman

Point Roberts' economy is suffering two years into the pandemic.

Emerging from the pandemic

This year started in peak omicron mode: thousands of new COVID-19 cases every week, and three deaths per day, on average — in Whatcom County alone. The omicron surge seemed like yet another cruel blow from an illness that for the past two years had upended individual businesses and entire communities — notably, geographically isolated Point Roberts. But COVID’s biggest peak was also its sharpest. Gov. Jay Inslee lifted the statewide mask mandate in March. By the summer, Bellingham and Whatcom County had largely abandoned masking and other public-health restrictions, returning to a full slate of crowded activities. And Western Washington University returned mostly to its usual bustling self in the fall.
—Ralph Schwartz

Son Levi Brown, left, and mother Cheryl Brown don hazmat suits and respirators to walk into the basement of their home in Nooksack on Aug. 25. The Browns' home was flooded and filled with naturally occurring asbestos from Sumas Mountain last November.


Decisions made today will impact northwest Washington children, and their descendants, for decades to come. Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood knows that, and spent much of this year pushing for environmental legislation. Though plans for a major and likely expensive Post Point Wastewater Treatment Plant construction are evolving, and the city’s proposed taxpayer-financed climate action fund is on hold, Whatcom County in the past year has seen other significant environmental remediation, including construction at the asbestos-laden Swift Creek. Local residents also continue to recover from environmental crises from the past year, in no small part due to historic flooding in November 2021. Environmental threats from the Petrogas facility in Ferndale and harmful algal blooms at Wiser Lake were also hot topics as the impacts of climate change continued to loom.
—Julia Lerner

Along with a dozen others, Daniel Rinier, a resident of the Eleanor Apartments, protests on N. Forest Street about another rent increase for at the affordable housing complex.


As a college city with a population boom fueled by an influx of I-5-corridor transplants, Bellingham has a disparate housing scene. Idyllic family-owned homes stand in contrast to growing numbers of rentals new and old, some of which are poorly maintained, steeply priced units that cycle through students. Mistreatment of tenants in the latter category inspired the Tenant’s Revolt, a movement seeking a mass action lawsuit against local property management companies. But with a slim vacancy rate, rentals continued to be difficult to find, and even harder for many to afford. Census data showed 58% of local renters spent more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. While the city can’t cap increasing rents, it did vote to protect mobile home parks amid fears investors would buy up parks, price out residents, then redevelop the properties.
—Audra Anderson

Law & justice

Early on, Cascadia Daily News asserted itself as a watchdog for breaking stories of injustice and of significant local, sometimes global, importance. The United Nations weighed in on the Nooksack Tribe’s eviction proceedings, initiated after 306 tribal members were disenrolled in 2018. Local law enforcement entered another tumultuous year between staffing shortages, low morale, and state laws that limit police pursuits. Two Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies were shot in February, straining an already short-staffed department. A Concrete man was killed by Sedro-Woolley police in February as he tried to elude them, and after an exhaustive investigative process, the officer who shot him returned to work this month after prosecutors chose not to charge him.
—Audra Anderson

Dana LAST NAME sits in a recliner next to carts of medical equipment at King Health. The room is where patients undergo the ketamine treatment. Karen King said she designed the space to be warm, comforting and safe – different than a typial medical office.

Mental health

Mental health has been a hot topic, especially for teens and young adults. The county was rocked by the death by suicide of a Lynden student. Schools continue to try to provide mental health support to students, despite limited funding and a lack of available mental health professionals. The state has tried to expand mental health support with a new hotline, and local agencies are providing the support they can. Beyond that, some health providers are looking at alternative treatment for people struggling with depression and anxiety, such as King Health’s use of ketamine therapy right here in Bellingham.
—Hailey Hoffman

After nearly 37 years married, Jack Bunnell and Kristan Warrior-Bunnell renewed their vows to one another. They said they decided this would be an important time to recommit to one another due to life changes over the last few years and returning to their faith.


As the country emerges from a multi-year pandemic, several chaotic election seasons, protests and the death of a queen (Betty White, of course), many of us find ourselves gravitating to less-serious news. No one can spend 24 hours per day reading about how the planet is dying, or how inflation is skyrocketing, or *insert bad news here*. Sometimes, we just need to read about people dressed as chickens in Fairhaven, about funky art, about “murder hornets” and people getting married in the snowiest place on Earth. Even something as small as a raindrop can bring good vibes, and CDN’s pages reflected these diversions.
—Julia Lerner

Mike Adkinson sits on the John Deere tractor he will drive across the country starting this month. Adkinson will use the trip to raise awareness for Parkinson's disease and raise money for the American Parkinson Disease Association Northwest Chapter.

News profiles

CDN news profiles this year celebrated history-makers, those tackling monumental feats, changemakers, local celebs and individuals who dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to a cause. Bellingham welcomed its first Black councilmembers this year, locals fought climate change and homelessness, a retiree puttered across the country in a tractor as a fundraising effort, and New Use Energy Solutions’ CEO used his business and connections to send portable power units to aid Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia. (Since then, NUE has deployed its first solar Wi-Fi trailer in Ft. Myers Beach after Hurricane Ian.) Here’s to another year highlighting incredible individuals.
—Audra Anderson

Kelsey Andrews adds red peppers to the grill to roast on July 15.

Business & labor

Despite an awkward year of pandemic recovery fits and starts, businesses — from small local shops to global manufacturers based here — found ways to navigate the repeated disruptions. Many were revived or expanded, including coffee roasters, restaurant groups and area business organizations. Some didn’t make it, with owners choosing to retire and others, perhaps, giving in to sheer exhaustion after repeated pivots forced by inflationary pressures, supply chain-caused shortages and staffing challenges.
—Frank Catalano

Though union membership rates are still lagging from their modern peak days in the 1980s, bargaining efforts took center stage in Whatcom County this year. Baristas at three separate Starbucks locations voted to form unions, and Ferndale’s local machinists’ union finalized a collective bargaining agreement with Blue Wolf Capital Partners, the private equity firm that planned to restart the Intalco aluminum smelter. Though the smelter restart is no longer in the immediate cards, union employees were guaranteed higher wages, performance bonuses and equity in the new company.
—Julia Lerner

Labor actions — or even the perceived threat of one — led to gains by workers in the tulip fields of Skagit County and in Whatcom County’s only hospital. Tulip workers who struck for three days one week before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival got many of their demands met quickly enough to enable them to return to work two days before the festival’s start. At PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, nurses and other employees got significant pay raises and other concessions before they even picketed.
—Ralph Schwartz

As the cost-of-living increases and Western Washington University reels from two years of dropping enrollment, faculty, staff and students are fighting to maintain a livable wage. Classified staff rallied for a minimum wage of $23 an hour and Academic Student Employees submitted paperwork in December to be recognized as Western’s first group of unionized student workers. Contract negotiations are expected to continue in the new year among the university’s several unions, especially following president Sabah Randhawa’s 4.25% personal raise equating to nearly an additional $20K annually.
—Hailey Hoffman

The wrecked sailboat sits in the Whatcom Creek channel in front of the rusty Acid Ball and other rusty relics of industry.


One of the most arid spots in the news desert in many communities is the lack of a public marketplace of ideas. We’ve endeavored to water that area in our region by bringing back some trusted community standards, such as a weekly columnist, national opinion columns, and candidate endorsements. Add to that a vibrant guest commentary/letters section, both of which have prompted strong reader participation. Below are some examples of the give/take on local issues via reader submissions, as well as a couple opinion columns from the editor that drew strong reader reaction.
—Ron Judd

Rubin Hutchins performs a Swan Ton Bomb wrestling move as firefighters put out a shed  fire in the background along West Bartlett Road in Lynden on March 9. North Whatcom Fire and Lynden Fire departments responded to the fire. No injuries have been reported.

News photos

Photographers Hailey Hoffman and Andy Bronson captured dozens of events big and small, photographed members of the community and worked hard to tell the story of Whatcom County as seen through their lenses. Here are a few of their favorite and most impactful moments captured this year.
—Hailey Hoffman

View the gallery: 2022 photos of the year


The Western Washington University women's soccer team celebrates with the Division 2 National Championship Trophy in Seattle on Dec. 3. The Vikings beat No. 1 seed West Chester 2-1 .


It was an incredible year for Western Washington University’s athletic teams. Two teams reached NCAA Division II national championships, emerging with a new women’s soccer title for the WWU trophy case. While the women’s basketball team came up short in its national title game, it was the program’s best-ever season. That was far from the end of memorable local sports moments. The Bellingham Bells, the city’s collegiate, wood-bat summer baseball team, reached the West Coast League Championship for the first time since 2014. As the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of landmark Title IX legislation, the local impacts on generations of female high school and college athletes were chronicled in a special report by CDN intern Cassidy Hettesheimer. And legendary local coaches continued to surpass legendary, legacy-building milestones.
—Connor J. Benintendi

Dawn Groves and friends hug, after learning the news of her teammate's death while on the Ski to Sea course at Maritime Park on May 29.

Sports news

A lot happens while sports teams are off the field, court or course, and 2022 was no exception. A legendary WWU basketball coach took over at a local high school. College football was back in Whatcom County for two nights in October. Beloved community members who were pivotal in small town athletics died. A man died while racing in Ski to Sea — the race’s first event-related death since 2002. Mountain bikers lost a coveted riding trail. Sehome High School forfeited a football game — costing them a potential state bid in the end — after a hazing incident within the team. The investigation by Bellingham Public Schools resulted in the team’s coach resigning at the end of the season. In more cheerful news, an outstanding former WWU women’s basketball player was hired to lead a local girls high school program.
—Connor J. Benintendi

Two people move across a snowfield at Artist Point beneath the Milky Way.


The Cascadia Daily News has a wonderful group of outdoors columnists who contribute weekly pieces to our website and print newspapers. Each has written many articles over 2022, but a few stood out from the bunch. Jason D. Martin chronicled the effects of understaffing on Stevens Pass under new ownership. Elliott Almond gave a voice to trail-goers who are fed up with returning to smashed car windows — and a path to do something about it. Kayla Heidenreich shared stories about her epic summer of travel, and our very own Hailey Hoffman compiled some excellent words and images from a late-night trek to Artist Point near Mount Baker.
—Connor J. Benintendi

Lynden Christian  boys and girls team celebrate as both teams won their respective 1A state championship titles at the Yakima Valley SunDome on March 5, in Yakima, Wash.


In case it somehow has escaped notice, Whatcom County is something of a high school sports capital in Washington state. Every year, more and more state titles pour into the county, while some areas of The Evergreen State struggle to win one. Lynden basketball teams continued their storied excellence, winning three more championships in 2022 while Lynden High School won a second-straight football title. In the spring, county prep teams won an incredible 24 state championships. Cross country teams earned three, Blaine had its first-ever swim champion and wrestlers fought hard at the Mat Classic XXXIII.
—Connor J. Benintendi

Gracie Castaneda rtalks about childhood sexual abuse, basketball and how coaches and teammates on the Western Washington University Basketball team helped her confront her past abuse on April 15.

Sports profiles

Sports are about people — people feeling joy, feeling pain, overcoming obstacles and lifting each other up. Sometimes the best stories aren’t about what happens during a game or match. Whatcom County’s rich athletic culture stretches across generations and families aplenty. Those incredible people compete in athletics far beyond the reaches of organized sport, and often they shine when nobody else is watching. They succeed because they are passionate about an activity, and it may be the reason they get out of bed every morning. These stories matter.
—Connor J. Benintendi

A line of skiers and snowboarder make the more than 800 ft elevation climb up the mountain to ski down.


Bellingham: a recreation paradise. A big ‘ol mountain called Mount Baker calls people who like to ski and ride, and it also holds the world record for snowfall in a single winter season (1998-99). Trails lead everywhere, fit for hiking or mountain biking. If you like water sports, there’s a large body of standing H2O in Bellingham Bay. Essentially anything that tickles one’s outdoors fancy can be found here, a fact reflected in the noted multisport event known as Ski to Sea, which brings almost all those exciting activities together into one giant team race. CDN spotlighted all these things in 2022.
—Connor J. Benintendi

Rowdy Thompson leaps off his bike as he misjudges a section of Spacewolf, a route of an Enduro race at Galbraith Mountain, during the NW Tune Up.

Sports photos

Photographer Andy Bronson and, when Andy could not clone himself, Hailey Hoffman, made their rounds to capture and document Whatcom County’s prep and college athletes as they competed in everything from local rivalry games to national titles. Beyond competitive sports, the pair captured countless recreational races and competitions.
—Hailey Hoffman

View the gallery: 2022 sports photos of the year


Fourth Corner Frames & Gallery owner Sheri Wright stands in front of the damaged wall to her old building on Holly Street on April 15.

Arts & entertainment

One of the first stories covered in Living in 2022 focused on the efforts of the Pickford Film Center to expand its footprint via the Pickford on Grand — a new theater at 105 Grand Ave., with a mission to give the community more chances to see independent movies produced by local, regional and international filmmakers. As the year ends, a generous donor has stepped up with a challenge; raise $200,000 for the expansion by the end of the year, and they’ll match every penny. Help with the fundraising effort, and you’ll be rewarded with a shiny new theater sometime in 2023.

Other A&E stories that caught our attention this year included the debut of “Severance,” an Emmy Award-winning television show created by WWU alum Dan Erickson; the closing of the beloved movie rental store Film is Truth; women producing and performing standup comedy in Whatcom County; the loss — and rebirth — of Fourth Corner Frames after a mighty storm; an art-focused staycation in Anacortes; and the efforts of a Downtown Bellingham Partnership employee to track down a missing work of art.
—Amy Kepferle

Larry Stapp, the owner of Twin Brook Creamery, stands with his younger pregnant cows at the creamery in Lynden on June 3.

Food & restaurants

The stories we tell inform our readers, but they also teach us a thing or two. This year, we learned about aquaponic farming, discovered the Herculean effort it takes to put on the Bellingham Greek Festival, met the cows (and farmers) of Lynden’s Twin Brook Creamery, and found out more about sustainable shellfish harvesting during a low tide in Birch Bay. We also celebrated the opening of new restaurants, mourned the loss of others, and investigated what Lummi Islanders think about the recent closing of the world-famous Willows Inn. In 2022, we also reviewed numerous restaurants, offered up seasonal recipes and celebrated the wealth of local food to be found in our region.
—Amy Kepferle

Betty Desire applies the first coats of foundation to her face.

Living profiles

What do a worm farmer and an iconic drag queen have in common? Well, in 2022 they were among the many fascinating people we profiled in the pages of the Cascadia Daily News. Among the standouts were a college student who started her own music magazine, a driftwood artist who found his calling later in life, a guy whose activism includes mending clothes, and the passing of a beloved local painter and printmaker. We can’t wait to see who we’ll meet in 2023. It turns out interesting people are everywhere, if you know where to look.
—Amy Kepferle