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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Citizens gather for waterfront cleanup at Maritime Heritage Park

Wendy Steffensen, RE-Sources North Sound Baykeeper, begins the Maritime Walk on Saturday, June 20 at Maritime Heritage park. Throughout the walk Steffensen and her colleagues showed the Bellingham community what areas are currently being cleaned up and explained the efforts being made.  Photo by Yaelle Kimmelman
Wendy Steffensen, RE-Sources North Sound Baykeeper, begins the Maritime Walk on Saturday, June 20 at Maritime Heritage park. Throughout the walk Steffensen and her colleagues showed the Bellingham community what areas are currently being cleaned up and explained the efforts being made. Photo by Yaelle Kimmelman

RE Sources for Sustainable Communities hosted a public walk to educate and show people toxic cleanup sites around the Bellingham Waterfront.

The mile-long walk started in Maritime Heritage Park and continued around the surrounding area, visiting and sharing information about the ecological impact of the cleanup sites on the city of Bellingham.

Over 30 people showed up to RE Source’s second tour out of four on Saturday, June 20. Bellingham residents visited five sites including the Central Waterfront, Holly Street Landfill, Whatcom Waterway and Georgia Pacific cleanup locations.

At each stop, participants were given a history of the site, including how it had come to be and how far in the cleanup process it was. These sites had been contaminated by years of industry runoff and pollution.

RE Sources, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable acts in northwest Washington, received grant money from the Washington State Department of Ecology to organize tours and distribute papers to educate people about the toxic cleanup sites.

RE Sources’ North Sound Baykeeper Wendy Steffensen organized and lead the walk, during which she talked about the history of the sites and how they have made progress over the years. Also aiding in the tour was RE Sources intern and Western senior Marika Weber.

“There is nothing like being on the ground to see the areas when you are talking about [the cleanup sites],” Steffensen said. “There is a real connection to see it and have someone explaining it to you, where as before you would just drive by and not even notice.”

Many of the participants on the walk said they were interested in being informed about their local environment and asked questions about how the toxic cleanup sites affect Bellingham and how it will change the waterfront.

Paul Becael, one of the participants, is new to Bellingham and said he decided to participate in the cleanup because he wanted to know how beautiful the waterfront could be.

“I hope that [the cleanup sites] are something more and more people will continue to be informed about,” Becael said.

Steffensen explained how there is a 30- 60 day public commenting period when the Department of Ecology produces a document detailing the information about the cleanup sites and how they will decide to fix them. By visiting these cleanup sites, Steffenson said she hopes that people will be more aware and offer their voice on each of the cleanups.

“I think people will understand a little bit more of our history, and the insults we have put upon our environment,” Steffensen said. “I think that it’s going to give [people] a lot more awareness and I’m hoping that it will make people want to participate more in these cleanups decisions.”

The last tour in the series is a biking tour at Marine Heritage Park, 10 a.m. on June 27.

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