Outdoors

Stay Tuned

Put your summer on hold

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

We all guessed it was coming, but when Mayor Seth Fleetwood confirmed on Mon., April 20 that most City of Bellingham-hosted events for the summer had been canceled as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 following a recommendation by the Whatcom County Health Department, it was still difficult to grasp the extent to which that would reshape what summer in Whatcom County typically looks like.

In the first round of cuts are annual events that typically draw a whole lot of people to local parks and other outdoor spaces such as the Kids Fest at Civic Stadium, Lake Padden Marathon and Youth Triathlon, All-Comers Track meets, and the annual Children’s Craft Fair that takes place every July on the lawn of the Bellingham Public Library.

And sorry, kids, but summer day camps are kaput. Additionally, Parks and Recreation athletic leagues are all canceled, the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center is shuttered until further notice, and Bellingham Bells’ season is toast.

While these cancellations are effective immediately, Fleetwood is working with City partner agencies, health officials, and Whatcom Unified Command, as well as consulting with Governor Jay Inslee’s office, to determine what other event cuts need to occur in order to follow Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach’s recent recommendations. Decisions are pending regarding events and activities that aren’t organized by the City but require its approval to proceed, and are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In a press release related to the closures, Fleetwood notes his approach is similar to state and region-wide efforts to resume economic and community activity in phases. “More like the slow turn of a dial than the flip of a switch,” he says.

“Taking the Health Department’s recommendation seriously means doing everything we can to reduce the number of people gathering in Bellingham,” he adds. “Canceling these City events and programs will help protect those most at risk for severe illness or death, continuing all our efforts underway this spring to ‘flatten the curve.’”

“Our goal is to increase business and community activity in well-planned phases, with measures in place that protect public health. Our ability to responsibly and successfully reopen our economy could be further damaged if we move too quickly to resume activities that we know put people at risk,” he says.

Fleetwood’s comments gel with a statement by the Health Department on April 14 indicating that modeling showed Whatcom County was on the downside of the first wave of the coronavirus. The missive noted that with continued social distancing, the next wave could be mitigated as well.

“However, if group gatherings resume too soon, the virus’ spread could be deadlier,” the statement concludes.

Ski to Sea organizers saw the writing on the wall last month when they canceled the annual relay race that sees athletes make their way from the Mt. Baker Ski Area to Bellingham Bay—and unofficially kicks off the summer season. Back on March 23, Whatcom Events Executive Director Anna Rankin announced the behemoth of an event wouldn’t take place on Memorial Day weekend due to circumstances associated with the coronavirus.

“Ski to Sea has been an uninterrupted annual celebration of our community’s diverse outdoor recreational opportunities since 1973,” she wrote. “Suffice it to say that making the decision to interrupt this tradition of 46 years was difficult and painful. However, cancellation is the only responsible choice given the logistics in preparing for the race, the uncertainty of our ability to safely stage the event on May 24, and our sensitivity to the financial and potential health impacts to racers.”

Whatcom Events’ other big summertime race—the bicycle-focused Tour de Whatcom in July—has also been put on hold. Other outdoor-focused events that have been given the heave-ho for the summer of 2020 include the Haggen Family Fourth of July in Bellingham, Blaine’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July citywide celebrations, and Sedro-Woolley’s expansive Loggerodeo.

“On a positive note, we are hoping to have fireworks and the chainsaw-carving event later on in September,” Loggerodeo President Dottie Chandler says. “We do not have the dates as of now, but stay tuned.”

Her final directive is one we should all keep in mind as we stay home to stay healthy. Sure, it may be painful to let go of some of the activities that help bind us together as a community, but if everybody stays tuned and does their part to reduce the amount of people who get sick here, the sacrifice will be well worth it.

For more information about actions related to COVID-19, go to http://www.cob.org/covid or http://www.whatcomcovid.com

[SIDEBAR]

The Good News

During a press conference Mon., April 27, Governor Jay Inslee was joined by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to announce that statewide recreation will reopen to the public starting Tues., May 5.

While some outdoor recreation will be allowed with appropriate safety precautions—including fishing, hunting, playing golf and day use at state parks and state public lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources and at state Fish and Wildlife areas—people should be aware that visitor centers, camping and other overnight accommodations on state-managed lands will remain closed.

Inslee also advised that anyone exhibiting any cold or flu-like symptoms shouldn’t participate in these activities, and that people need to limit their recreation buddies to only those who live within a household unit. Other directives include using face coverings where social distancing isn’t possible, recreating locally and limiting unnecessary travel, and bringing your own food and supplies along to help reduce exposure.

“As you venture back out into the landscape, we ask you to #RecreateResponsibly by maintaining a six-foot distance between you and others you encounter,” Franz says. “Please bring your own personal hygiene products—like hand sanitizer and toilet paper—and leave one parking space between you and the next car.”

For more info, go to http://www.dnr.wa.gov/open

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