Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lily Point, Point Roberts: Part I

Point Roberts and Lily Point

I had a project in Whatcom County, Washington that required some international travel. All told four international border crossings in one day. The details of how Point Roberts remained in the United States are summed up at wiki/Point_Roberts,_Washington. Because of its peculiar location, it is a rather interesting community and kind of remarkable that it has remained in the United States.

Lily Point viewed from the high bluff to the north

After I finished the purpose of my visit this week, I headed over to Lily Point at the southeast corner of Point Roberts. Lily Point is one of several remarkable Whatcom County Parks. The Nature Conservancy, Whatcom Land Trust, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Fish and Wildlife, Whatcom County and local residences completed a purchase of Lily Point in 2008. The purchase acquired the entire lower point area as well as the slope down to the point. Prior to the purchase, there had been a scheme to develop the point, but the development plans were never completed, and when the developers asked for an extension in 2003 the County Council voted against the extension. A change in zoning in the early 2000s reduced the development potential from 3 homes per acre to one home per 5 acres.

Lilly Point is not a pristine landscape. Far from it. The point today is probably as pristine as it ever has been. First of all the Point is likely not a very old geologic feature. It is a sand and gravel spit. Hugh Shipman called it a cupsate foreland HERE. It is fed by gravel and sand from eroding bluffs to the west.

Second the site is smack dab in the middle of a very rich fishing area of the Salish Sea. Lots of First Nations peoples utilized this site. Peter Puget of the Vancouver Expedition estimated 400 to 500 people occupied Lilly Point when he visited the Point in 1792. Today no one lives at the Point.

Lily Point in the early 1900s cannery era

The Point continued to be used as a major fishing site, but hundreds if not thousands of years of use as a fishing site came to an end when industrial scale fish processing started in the the late 1800s. A cannery occupied the site from 1883 to 1917. This was a large facility, but the pillaging of the fish with little to no regulation brought the massive and unsustainable cannery era to an end as fish populations plummeted.

Pilings from one of the old cannery buildings, Lummi Island is in the distance

Anthropocene bedrock - tin slag boulder, a common feature at old canneries
Not sure if this has anything to do with the cannery, but I noted several auto erratics on the beach

Today the site has a few trails. A parking area and trail head have recently been constructed by Whatcom County Parks. During my hike the bald eagles gave the forest trail on the way to the point a Jurassic Park feel with their strange calls and chattering. The tide was not out during my visit, but this site has a very rich marine ecosystem - a significant motive for protection. Lily Point is a scenic site and has changed over time into a remarkable natural area, but is also a site steeped in history and culture. Lily Point is on the National Register of Historic Places as a site of National Cultural, Traditional and Spiritual Significance. On a quiet chilly April evening I had mulled the long history of this place over hundreds to thousands of years, how much it must have changed, what brought about those changes and how it will be used in the centuries ahead. Part of my thinking relates to some personal history at Point Roberts and Lily Point; until this week I hadn't been to Lilly Point since it became a public park. 

I won't go into details about my political era in Whatcom County and Lily Point and battles over protecting cultural resources at Point Roberts. But I will close with one fond memory about Point Roberts from the very beginning of that political period. When I was running for election to Whatcom County government, I visited Point Roberts to do a geology hazard investigation with an engineer. We had a challenging time figuring out the slope and risks. It was cold windy and very wet. Afterwards we went to a local eatery/bar to warm up and talk through various ideas on how to solve a tricky problem. From there I walked over to the meeting hall to participate in a political debate. I did change out my muddy clothes. Several folks approached me and said, "Hey, weren't you in the bar?" That was followed by, I'd vote for you, but I'm Canadian.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

that erratic looks like it started out as a volkswagen