Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Summer Fun at Bloedel Donovan Park

Written By: Ginger Oppenheimer

Bloedel Donovan Park has the most amazing array of things to do in an amazingly small space. Just 12 acres, the park offers a playground, multi-purpose fields, picnic tables and barbecue pits, sand volleyball courts, and best of all: a beach and the lake for swimming. This is the quintessential summer park.

View of Lake Whatcom at Bloedel Donovan ParkView of Lake Whatcom at Bloedel Donovan Park.

Bloedel Donovan has the city’s only public boat launch and recreational access to Lake Whatcom. For those reasons alone, it’s a busy place. And a warm summer day can be a little nutty. But the truth is, all that refreshingly cool water is worth it. Bloedel Donovan is just plain gorgeous. Situated at the northwestern end of Lake Whatcom, the view down the lake is breathtaking. And a jump in the lake is invigorating.

In addition, the park has several buildings that the community can use, and there are any number of events that could keep you going to Bloedel Donovan again and again: a kids’ festival, environmental fairs and outdoor expos, arts events, Halloween fun, and flower shows. You just have to keep checking the local media for events and kids activities because there are too many to list here.

Bloedel Donovan Community BuildingThere are classes and events at the Bloedel Donovan Community Building.

Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department’s seasonal Leisure Guide alone lists any number of classes and day camps located at Bloedel Donovan: theatre and improv, “go green,” how not to get lost outdoors, “the magic of Hogwarts” are just several examples. Bloedel Donovan’s community building and pavilion are ideal for summer classes and camps, not to mention for all the other events you’ll find year round at Bloedel Donovan.

Summer is definitely the time to soak up the sun and let the kids be kids. Lifeguards are on duty and the swimming area is marked off with boundaries. There are lots of grassy areas to settle for a spontaneous picnic, or get there early and grab a table and a barbecue pit.

Don’t be surprised by the noise. Screaming kids (not yours, of course!) having the time of their lives on the beach and in the lake, and powerboats and jet skis sounding louder than you thought possible. It’s well worth the visit though—the whole family can enjoy the many amenities of Bloedel Donovan. The park is very pet friendly for the family dog. From May 1 to September 30, dogs can be off leash until 10 am. The rest of the year, the entire park is off leash for all hours.

Two girls enjoy a relatively rare moment of quiet at Bloedel Donovan Park this summer. Two girls enjoy a relatively rare moment of quiet at Bloedel Donovan Park this summer.

A bit of history
Like many places in Bellingham, Bloedel Donovan Park has an industrial past. The park was the site of the Larson Lumber Mill owned by three men, two of which were—you guessed it—Bloedel and Donovan.

In the late 1800s J. H. Bloedel, an industrialist, met J. J. Donovan. They were both involved with hauling logs from the Lake Whatcom region. The two gentlemen went into business with a Mr. Larson to establish the Larson Lumber Mill in 1901 at the current park site and the company became the largest shipper of lumber products in the Northwest.

In 1913, the Larson Lumber Mill and several other Bloedel and Donovan businesses merged to become the Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills, headed by Bloedel and Donovan. Despite the company’s successes, the Great Depression impacted their business and they began liquidating in 1946. That September, Bloedel and his wife Mina donated a 12-acre tract—the former site of the Larson Lumber Mill—to the City of Bellingham for use as a park and bathing beach, with around $100,000 for its development.

On August 11, 1948, Bloedel Donovan Park was dedicated. More than 1000 spectators attended. Bloedel, 84 years old at the time, formally gave the park to the Bellingham residents.

Kids enjoy the open fields for random and organized play. Kids enjoy open fields for play with Old Number 7 in the background.

In the 1960s, the Bloedel Foundation gave a variety of donations to the park board for improvements to the park, including an improved swimming area, a new permanent float, a diving board, and a public boat-launch ramp. During the same time, the Permanente Cement Company donated a 1918 steam switching engine—Old Number 7—as a monument. You’ll find it today at the edge of the playing fields.

The final big change was the conversion of a caretaker’s house to the current Parks and Rec Preschool in 1980.

Other stuff to do
In addition to swimming and picnicking, there’s a kids’ playground with all the usual fun equipment, and you’ll find multi-purpose fields ripe for soccer, baseball, or t-ball for the little ones. The fields are on the other side of the busy parking lot, so be careful to watch for cars when crossing. Look for Old Number 7, a steam engine, at the edge of the playing fields, which, unfortunately, can’t be crawled on. It’s fenced off, but it’s still fun to look at the big engine and imagine this spot’s industrial past.

The well-shaded playground at Bloedel Donovan Park. Kids can play in the shade at the Bloedel Donovan Playground.

During the summer, you can rent boats, which gets you and the kids away from the masses and out onto the waters of the lake.

For the older set, a basketball court and a sand volleyball court are available.

And for you and the whole family: nearby, flat trails make it easy to get from Whatcom Falls Park to Bloedel Donovan. It’s a great way to spend the day as a family, seeing the falls in the cool shade of Whatcom Falls Park, pedaling the trail to Bloedel Donovan and popping out into the summer sunshine for a big splash in the lake.

Bloedel Donovan Park
2214 Electric Ave.
Bellingham, WA 98229

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Family Tent Camping Season

We began tent camping when our sons were preschoolers. Through trial and error, a variety of family rituals were established. Now that our sons are grown, those traditions are the basis of cherished memories. Holiday dinners and other family gathering frequently bring reminiscences of things remembered from camping together. We camp because we love it.

Family Tent Camping Season An annual camping trip creates family traditions that kids will look forward to each year.

For others, camping may be a new, and at times, a welcome option as gas prices continue to rise and vacation budgets are impacted. Following are some of the ways camping became a central part of our family experience.

Keep it age appropriate. Travel distance, which translates to time in the car, level of adventure and length of time away can increase as the kids grow up. Location of camp sites and support amenities can help younger campers grow in appreciating the time in the natural settings. As our sons grew up, we’d go on trips for longer periods of time, allow them more freedom, and encourage them to bring friends along.

Establish traditions. Our family knows that we’ll be spending a week at Moran State Park on Orcas Island each July. It’s happened for well over 20 years. What began with the four of us has morphed into shared times with friends and extended family. For a number of years, we shared an annual trip with friends my wife met in college and their three boys. Part of the fun is seeing who will come each year. Sometimes people join us for a day, others for the entire time. Now that our sons are grown-up, we still go and their families are always welcome to come along.

Try something new. Yes, we go to Orcas every year. But it’s nice to see what else is out there too. While the boys were growing up, it was also a tradition to try another place. We’d study park maps and look forward to new experiences. Our ritual became one week on the island and one week somewhere new. After Orcas, we have enjoyed a number of camping trips along the Oregon coast and other sites around Puget Sound; my wife loves salt water! Northern Oregon coast sites, with close access to long beaches, are great for playing in the sand, chasing the tide, family walks and memory-making sunsets.

Know your options. The Northwest is full of camping choices. There are historic sites, deep forests, beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and more. We tend to be drawn to locations near saltwater, but you can always go east over the mountains where it is usually drier and hotter. So hot that one year we found ourselves setting up camp near Wenatchee when the temp was 108 degrees.

Plan ahead. As the trip draws closer, kids will get excited about the upcoming adventure if they are included in preparations. When grocery shopping for camping trips, we let each of our boys pick a box of cereal they wanted for the trip. This provided a quick start to days filled with adventures. Also, do a little research on nearby attractions to your campsite. Camping also provides numerous learning opportunities; hikes, nature study, cross-generational conversations, and history lessons are all enhanced through the camping experience.

Family Tent Camping Season Balance “roughing it” in the great outdoors with suitable “kid-friendly” camping equipment.

Get the right gear. But you don’t have to have it all. Tent camping at most public parks is a far cry from a meeting with Sasquatch or Grizzly Adams. Get equipment that will allow for weather protection, varied temperatures, and hold up in the out of doors with kids roughhousing. We’ve learned to survive drizzle and some rain, but we know our limits and have given in to the elements a time or two, moving on or going home earlier than planned.

Share the work, share the fun. Setting up camp and meal times can become big memory makers. When it comes to meals, we have a number of traditions and meals that everybody looks forward to—hot dogs and s’mores over the fire—and the kids have as much fun with the fire and preparing the food as they do eating these meals. Another idea is combination meals that use both the fire and a camp stove. Potatoes wrapped in foil and baked in campfire coals can be diced the next day and fried, along with eggs and other breakfast fare. Or include it in a camper’s “hash,” with a variety of other ingredients. Again, kids can easily help with the fire (according to their age and with proper supervision), prepping the potatoes and helping to guess the timing. Remember to balance campfire cooking with simple meals, like sandwiches, that travel easily and allow for maximum time playing and exploring.

Laugh about it. Getting a little wet, burning food, and excessive bug bites can be recalled in ways that exceed the original moment. One trip memories included one of the boys getting chicken pox, and we once spent a few extra days on Orcas when the ferry dock went out of commission. It’s often the unplanned, and at times embarrassing, moments that make the best memories.

Family traditions take on renewed meaning when a new generation comes along. Last summer was the first grandparents and grandkids trip for us. Over the winter, our grandsons have been asking if we are all going again. As this year’s winter has seemed to overshadow the spring, I am with them in their anticipation of summer days and camping together.

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Observing Memorial Day in Bellingham

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was first observed in the United States as a time to honor and remember fallen soldiers of the Civil War. It was called Decoration Day because it was traditional for the graves to be adorned with flowers and flags.

Observing Memorial Day in Bellingham Red corn poppies are a symbol of wartime emembrance.

Many communities across the country celebrated Decoration Day on different days, so General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army, declared that on May 30, 1868, flowers would be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. This date was chosen because it did not mark the anniversary of any Civil War battle, reminding Americans in the North and South to join together in honoring those who gave their lives in service.

Following World War I, Memorial Day started to be observed in recognition of all Americans who died in battle. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, ensuring a 3-day weekend for Federal holidays. Some critics believe that this has caused Americans to forget the meaning of the day.

Here are some things you can do in your family to take time to observe this day and remember those who gave their lives in services of our country.

Observe the National Moment of Remembrance
At 3 PM (local time) on Memorial Day, observe one minute of silence to remember fallen soldiers and their great sacrifice.

Join the Memorial at Bayview Cemetery
This year, American Legion Post 7 will conduct a Memorial Day Observance on May 26th. The ceremony begins at 11 AM with a presentation of the colors, music, and a firing squad salute. And even if you don’t know anyone buried at Bayview, bring flowers or small American flags to place on the gravestone of a soldier. Traditionally, the red corn poppy is symbolic of wartime remembrance and many people wear artificial or paper poppies on Memorial Day.

Personal Memories
If any of your family members were fallen soldiers or veterans, share their story with your children to help them personally identify with the holiday and understand the price at which many freedoms are granted.

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