A gift to the future
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Let me tell you the story of Governors Point.
This beguiling forested peninsula extends out into the Salish Sea between Pleasant Bay and Larrabee State Park’s Wildcat Cove along the Chuckanut Coast. Although it’s located only a scant two miles south of Bellingham’s city limits, the point is a place apart, a rugged and beautiful reminder of days gone by, lushly canopied with cedar and fir and sensuous madrone.
The shoreline is like a surrealist sculpture, sandstone carved into grottos, arches and formations that defy description. It is well-loved by eagles, herons and river otters. In short, it’s a treasure. In this era of manufactured landscapes it is also exceedingly rare—and valuable.
Over the years, plans have been made to develop the point—one proposal called for 310 houses!—but these have all been thwarted by the fact that Governors Point has no feasible water supply. Entreaties by developers to the City of Bellingham to provide water have been repeatedly rebuffed over the years and so the point has been spared the fate of so many once-pristine parcels on the shores of the Salish Sea.
But the fate of Governors Point was still uncertain until recently. How could the pressures of development be reconciled with the need to preserve this last bastion of wildness? Enter Randy Bishop.
Bishop is a unique fellow, a man who has made his fortune in the glass-blowing business. A one-time resident of the area, he lives now in Vancouver, BC. When Governors Point came up for sale after another failed attempt to turn it into a housing development, he decided to buy it. His idea, audacious and innovative, was to build a scattering of homes along its western shore and donate the vast majority of it to the Whatcom Land Trust for a nature reserve and public park.
This visionary plan was contingent on the City of Bellingham supplying water, which it did in 2018 after weighing the benefits of Bishop’s donation and support from WLT. In a few years, public hiking trails will criss-cross the peninsula and some of the best beaches on the Salish Sea will be open to kayakers and other human-powered craft. This new park will rival nearby Larrabee State Park for its grandeur and beauty.
This is a hopeful story on every level: the private/public partnership, the development concept that less is more, the primacy of aesthetics. The City Council suggested that 25 homes might work nicely on the land but Bishop said no, 16 was a better number. The homes will be designed by Bishop’s partner, architect Omer Abel, and will be constructed according to an environmental ethos intended to make them blend into the landscape. These are not McMansions—each house will be no larger than 2,900 square feet and disturbance of the forest floor will be tightly constrained. Pesticides and herbicides will be prohibited.
The project represents a new way of thinking about development. Instead of creating value by maximizing density, value will be achieved by prioritizing the natural landscape. This ecologically- and community-minded vision of a new approach to development represents a new ideology in a long history of prioritizing profits over everything else.
An outlier? You bet. A model for the future? We can only hope.
To find out more about the Whatcom Land Trust, go to http://www.whatcomlandtrust.org.
Keepers of the Patos Light
A treasure of San Juan’s outer coast
Eight years ago this month, the President of the United States presented the Salish Sea region with an extraordinary gift.
With Sen. Maria Cantwell joining him in the Oval Office, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation establishing a San Juan Islands National Monument. Its…
A grower’s guide
In lieu of having a social life, approximately 20 million Americans began gardening last spring. It was the early months of the pandemic, and whether people were growing fruit and vegetable crops for the first time or beautifying their backyards because they knew they’d be spending a whole…
In search of Ski to Sea
Last spring, the skiers, snowboarders, runners, bicyclists, canoeists and kayakers who typically would’ve teamed up to propel themselves from the slopes of Mt. Baker to the open waters of Bellingham Bay on Memorial Day weekend were instead advised to stay home. Ski to Sea had been canceled…