May 28, 2023

Bellingham WA: GOOD NEWS. 5/22/23 Downyland update

May 22, 2023
It's a beautiful sight. The City's ROW below the historic railroad trestle was cleaned of long-standing vagrants' debris on May 19, 2023. I did not witness the cleanup and do not know who cleaned it. One would assume City of Bellingham but I am uninformed. When I visited May 22nd and took these photos, I noticed a happy Robin on the railing representing many pleased creatures. In the distance, a deer who had been browsing earlier, was now staring in the direction of some illegal campers whom I can only hope have been dealt with. There are still sneakers and yoga pants in trees, and the north end is trashed daily, but it is a great moment for this small but vital area to have been freed of human mess.  Maybe the City was only motivated to clean it because the Ski-to-Sea event was coming up. That would be sad if nature is only protected when there are money-making events. Nature is more glorious and indispensable than money.

March 20, 2023
December 2021 photo on left shows bundled stack of new decking that was added to accumulated debris below trestle near Wharf Street. Pieces are still there March 2023. 

City of Bellingham Public Works staff visited March 8th to remove vagrants' debris from the north end of the City R-O-W below the trestle and a small portion of adjacent BNSF private property. They then hydroseeded those spots with grass seed. They erected temporary No Trespassing signs to protect the grass seed. Sneakers, dog waste bag, and spandex clothing are still in tree branches. There was no cleanup of the south end of the trestle ground which has been a toxic, entangling mess unattended to since at least 2021. There's no telling how many creatures have suffered and died from this.


January 2023 Do you see the dog waste bag?

MARCH 6, 2023
Nesting season is well underway and little has been done in the way of protecting the wetland. The City sent workers twice in January but they only picked up a few large items. Toxins and other dangerous debris that has been there two or more years remain. The dog waste and sneakers are still hanging from trees, folding chairs are under the trestle, etc.  It is a comparatively small job to clean up this No Trespassing zone if only the City were inclined to do so.  

11/30/22 This is to update my running log concerning a small but significant wetland area near Bellingham Bay. There are issues pertaining to vegetation and #wildlife that require attention in this rare #greenbelt between the Port of Bellingham and North State Street that I refer to as #Downyland after the #downywoodpeckers who nested in a valuable snag here in 2019. I doubt they will ever return.

Nov 29, 2022

The photo above shows a Nov 16, 2022 view of a bald #eagle perched near the nest used in previous years. It was the first time I saw him/her back since March (photo below is from 3/4/22). I also noticed a #stellarjay on the 16th. I believe the eagle is getting ready for another breeding season. I saw him/her again on 11/26/22. I noticed #woodpeckers, #chickadees, #juncos and #towhees 11/29/22. Sadly - as of Nov 29, 2022 - longstanding debris under the old railroad trestle (pictured below) still has not been cleaned by the City of Bellingham despite numerous pleas for their dutiful protection of #nature. Toxins and solid waste, as well as motor vehicle and #rodenticide (and other "cides") distribution are very serious dangers for most critters in the circle of life. In addition, there is no removal of #noxiousweeds in the area under City of Bellingham jurisdiction. Invasive vines such as #ivy and #clematis as well as other non-natives are left to encroach on and strangle #firs, #cottonwoods, #maples, #alders and other #trees.  

September 11, 2022

Pictured above is private property of the Burlington Northern Railway Company LLC following a cleanup in January 2020. Fortunately, the railroad company cleaned their two private-property wetland parcels of trespassing humans' debris again July 1, 2022. Also fortunately, on August 30, 2022 the City of Bellingham's contractors cleaned the higher stretch nearer E Laurel Street and the small area below the north end of the old trestle (all No Trespassing zones); these are commonly soiled daily by illegal drug users and litterers. The trestle is part of the City's popular, state-supported South Bay Trail and in turn part of the Interurban Trail. It is disappointing that the entire City portion under their trestle never gets cleaned for well over a year. This is despite numerous requests to staff in person, SeeClickFix submittals, via email, and with calls. I have been told it is a low priority.  For wildlife though it is a high priority.  

The photo above shows part of the City's strip of land below their historic trestle near Wharf Street, Bellingham WA on May 28, 2022. 

March 9, 2022 

The eagles are using the nest they built in 2020. I saw one flying over Whatcom Waterway this morning. This photo is from March 4th. I haven't heard from the railway company whether they will pay some attention to this area. I even sent them a photo of a deceased deer who has been there several months. The leaves will burst out very soon and it will be harder to locate the litter etc. than it would be if it had already been done. But it doesn't seem that those in power will maintain or safeguard the property. If they do arrange cleanups after Spring gets further underway it will disturb more birds, rabbits and so on. Many are already tending nests now.

February 17, 2022

I am not sure what the eagles are doing this year. Last year they abandoned their nest but I believe they relocated up the hill a bit and raised young.

Sadly, the whole Critical Area I nicknamed "Downyland" (after the Downy woodpecker) is still largely unprotected and unmaintained. I emailed the railway company in January 2022 requesting cleanup of their portion, but there was no reply. The last time the City of Bellingham sent their contractors there to clean their portion of the buffer was early December 2020. Apparently there was no response to subsequent Encampment Activity Forms. Litter remains from previous years, and is added to daily. In the vegetated area there is even human poo, along with egregious litter. There have been fires in Downyland.

Be careful if you walk there since even on the gravel path it is now impossible to avoid getting dog poo on shoes - the rains/snows soaked it in and spread it around like grout. And it gets added to daily.

A wooden fence (such as the one along a portion of Whatcom Creek)  would be nice. In addition, signs instructing people not to trespass and to specifically comply with many pertinent ordinances, as well as clear delineation of private property seem necessary.

January 18, 2021

This is an update regarding the Critical Areas  between East Laurel Street and Wharf Street some of which is under the jurisdiction of the BNSF Railway (see BNSF) and some under the City of Bellingham. 

A Google album contains the above photo re eagles and three other photos of the wetland showing that debris from vagrants still remains. (There is orange construction fencing along the buffer since December 2020 in connection with the City's ongoing Trestle Repair Project):

Following is my January 9, 2020 post re the wetland buffer between East Laurel Street and Wharf Street. I saw for the first time last year a pair of American Bald Eagles use the area for nesting and at least two babies fledged. Someone told me there was a third as well. Eagle visits to the nest have been observed this year but I haven't observed whether they are actually nesting. I would think there would be reports on eBird or elsewhere - I just haven't researched. 

After BNSF felled many trunks of trees in the area the day the lockdown started, I wrote to the City and received a reply from a planner saying, "I sent your information on to our complaint folks, and they’re following up." Despite my several inquiries re status, I was never informed of any remedial steps taken regarding the tree removals.

January 9, 2020 

A cleanup of trash in this area was begun yesterday. Part of the property is City-owned (South Bay Trail) and the wetland buffer is property of the international Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF). Cleanup will improve conditions for plants and animals in the drainage which is essentially just yards/meters away from Bellingham Bay on the Washington coast. Cleanup should ameliorate air, land and water pollution.

January 8, 2020 1-1/2 minute view:

Compared to 2017:

From April 2017, 40-second clip of BNSF wetland:

 From April 2017, 3-minute view of a particular deer in sunshine: