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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Waypoint Park opens to public on former industrial site

Waypoint Park is just the start of 33 acres of new parks to be added to the former Georgia Pacific site, said Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department Director Leslie Bryson. // Photo by Sara Bourgeau

By Sara Bourgeau

For the first time in 100 years, public access is being granted to the industrial site waterfront with the construction of Waypoint Park. With the summer heat fast approaching, Bellingham residents and tourists have an opportunity to visit the newly-developed site located west of downtown.

The land was previously home to the Georgia Pacific Pulp and Tissue Mill. When the plant closed in 2007, many plans were put forth to redevelop the land. Waypoint Park is the first step in creating a mixed-use neighborhood out of the industrial site.

This area was filled for industrial uses and never really available to the public until now,” Leslie Bryson, director of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department, said in an email.We want people to come and enjoy the scenery, the beach, the art, playground, stroll on the paths or just relax. It is a very unique park in Bellingham.”

Waypoint Park features a beach, waterfront walking and biking trail, a nearshore habitat and the spectacle that is the Waypoint art structure. What was formerly an acid accumulator that was part of the plant, the 40-foot-tall metal ball has been transformed into a glowing beacon. Glass beads added on the exterior reflect the bright summer sun. LED lighting is also being installed to illuminate the ball at night, according to the City of Bellingham website.

A playground built at the park has yet to be completed. The final sealant on the structure is weather dependent, but it is scheduled to be finished within two weeks, Gina Austin, project engineer for the City of Bellingham, said.

There is currently no parking available at the park, but visitors are encouraged to bike, walk or park nearby.

On a sunny afternoon, the park had many visitors, both human and canine. Most were families enjoying the pebble beach, others were enjoying the freshly-made walking trail while marveling at the Waypoint structure.

“I think it’s fun and exciting that they are finally opening this part of town,” Sheila Carson, a park visitor, said. “I can’t wait to see it continue to grow.”

Carson was accompanied by her two children. One mentioned how the Waypoint art structure resembled the robot villain from the movie “The Incredibles.”

Two new streets will be constructed to help provide easier access for the public to the waterfront and the park. The streets, Laurel Street and Granary Avenue, are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, Austin said.

“There will be a total of 33 acres of new parks throughout the site. The area closest to Waypoint Park will be developed mostly with mixed-use residential, commercial and office space,” Bryson said.

Bryson hopes Waypoint Park will bring many visitors and will only continue to do so as the site continues to grow and develop.


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