Taylor Avenue Dock leading to Boulevard Park

Perhaps the most impressive and the most treasured improvement to the South Bay Trail was the renovation of Taylor Dock and the creation of an over-water walkway which would extend the trail into Boulevard Park.  Beginning in 1988, a creative vision was fostered  to convert this former industrial dock to public access which would then connect this structure to the trail leading into the park. This vision would take many twists and turns before the project was finally completed in 2006.

Going Back in Time
Canneries, lumber mills, flour mills, coal gas production, log dumps and railroad shops lined the shores of Bellingham Bay for more than a century.  Residential neighborhoods just above and close to the waterfront were largely occupied by fishermen and the laboring classes.  Often their vistas faced away from the smoke of lumber mills and the stench of fish processing.

Galen Biery Photographs #1598
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Western Library Heritage Resources  
Western Washington University 
 The Beginnings of Boulevard Park

As the industrial focus surrounding the bay began to wane, and the multiple railroad lines were consolidated, the community began to embrace the views and a potential opportunity for public access to the waterfront.  Homes were remodeled with decks facing the bay and the islands beyond.  Condominiums and apartments were being constructed to take advantage of these views.
This type of private development and the threat of future projects became an incentive for community groups to advocate for the preservation of this area that is now a park for the public at large.  The Rotary Club, along with a number of women who called themselves the YWCA Eco-Action group, began to lobby for a park along the Boulevard between Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham.  Throughout the 1970s, these groups were met with resistance by developers and city officials.  But they persisted.
Gradually, various parcels of land were acquired along this portion of the waterfront and funds were dedicated for park development. 

The waterfront industries of Fairhaven’s early history have been replaced with one of Bellingham’s most beloved parks.  Dedicated on June 14, 1980, Boulevard Park was the culmination of efforts by various community leaders, civic organizations and public agencies.  Improvements and extensions to the original park boundaries have resulted in the popular South Bay Trail, now linking Fairhaven to downtown Bellingham.

There have been further changes and improvements within and around the park in  recent years.  One of the new additions is the Wood’s Coffee shop that now occupies a former pottery studio that was originally the steam turbine building for the E.K. Wood Lumber Mill.  It sits on land known as Pattle’s Point upon which sat a cabin built by the original land claim owner, William Pattle in 1853.
Along this walkway, looking toward the Chrysalis Inn, a formation rises above the water that resembles a large rock.  

This formation is actually a large pile of tin waste that was created when the area was occupied by a facility that produced cans for the export of salmon from the local fishing industry.
For years, industrial waste and demolition debris from the razing of the old Fairhaven Hotel has dotted the park shoreline. In 2013, the Parks Department completed a shoreline restoration project that removed this debris and added gravel and sand to create a restored beach to the area adjacent to the playground just north of the coffee shop.  Further shoreline studies are in the works to stem erosion and remove additional debris north of this area.

For a thorough examination of the development of Boulevard Park, consult Brian L. Griffin’s "Boulevard Park & Taylor Avenue Dock on the Old Bellingham Waterfront”, 2007.
Available at Village Books, or order here.


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