Take a self-guided tour of Bellingham’s waterfront

There are 12 toxic cleanup sites along Bellingham Bay from over 100 years of industrial activity. Use this interactive map to explore their history and how they're being cleaned up for future use. | April 20, 2020

Interactive map

If you’ve spent any time in Bellingham, chances are you’ve looked out across Bellingham Bay to enjoy a first-rate sunset or a quiet moment of contemplation by the flickering water that makes us feel so fortunate to live in Whatcom County.

And if you’ve ever turned your eyes just a bit downward, closer to the city water’s edge, chances are you saw the crumbling infrastructure and stretches of shoreline off-limits to the public from 100 years of industrial activity. Many people have heard of the Georgia-Pacific pulp mill, which left the largest toxic cleanup site in Bellingham after closing in 2007. But that’s only one of 12 similar sites contaminated with toxic substances left along the Bellingham waterfront. Lumber mills, wood treatment facilities, gas stations, fish processing plants, a gas manufacturing plant, and an olivine crushing plant have all contributed toxic materials that threaten the health of our bay. These 12 sites are in various stages of being cleaned up, so they can once again be accessible to the community (and important aquatic life like young salmon).

Learn about the Bay’s history — and how you can help shape its future — on your own!

Now, we’re excited to roll out a digital map tool to explore these 12 sites!

Take a walk, bike, or paddle to these oft-overlooked spots along our waterfront. It’s a great way to get outdoors and get connected to this place we call home. In the past, RE Sources has hosted walking tours of these contaminated sites with local agencies like the Port of Bellingham and Department of Ecology. However, due to COVID-19 health concerns, we aren’t hosting any for the foreseeable future.

Please be safe! If there are a lot of people out and about, consider following this self-guided tour at a less crowded time.

How to use the map

Click on this link to view in Google Maps on your phone or computer, or use the embedded map below (we recommend viewing in Google Maps, though). These directions are for mobile, but it’s similar on desktop.

  • Click the title, “Bellingham Bay Toxic Cleanup Walking or Biking Tour” to view the introduction and the legend.
    Click on the text that begins with “INTRODUCTION” to get an overview of the map and to learn about what the icons represent.
    Click on any one of the icons in the map and the name of the cleanup site will show up on the bottom of your screen. Swipe up to learn more about the site. Click on the photo and scroll to the right to view all of the photos.
    Click on any one of the lines to get walking or biking directions. Swipe up to find detailed directions between sites either traveling from the south or the north (generally speaking). The distance between the two sites is given at the very bottom of the page.

There are two layers to the map that you can turn on or off:

  • Toxic Cleanup Sites: gives you an overview of each of the 12 cleanup sites including what the contaminants are and where they came from as well as what stage of the cleanup they are in.
  • Walking or Biking Directions: provides directions between each of the 12 sites either from the north or the south.

Visit all 12 sites in a whopping 6.91 one-way trip, or see the 8 that are in the city core — just 2.8 miles (from Weldcraft to Cornwall Landfill), perfect for an afternoon outing.

Take this scavenger hunt of things you’ll see and learn along the way! One luck participant will get a $25 gift certificate to The RE Store!

Scavenger hunt clues

Reach out to Pollution Prevention Specialist Kirsten McDade with any questions or feedback, and we hope this will help you feel more connected to our beautiful bay!

This product is funded through a Public Participation Grant from the Department of Ecology.