City officials call for comments on leasing option at Big Rock Garden Park

As the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department considers a private leasing arrangement to manage Big Rock Garden Park in Bellingham’s Silver Beach Neighborhood, city officials are seeking public input on how to move forward.

A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 26, at Bloedel Donovan Community Building, 2214 Electric Ave.

Officials said a lease arrangement might lower the cost of maintaining the park.

Big Rock Garden Park requires more upkeep than other local parks due to its sculpture and horticulture collections, according to Parks and Recreation Director James King.

“The Parks and Recreation Department, together with volunteers from The Friends of Big Rock Garden Park, has tried to keep up with the maintenance demands, but with diminishing resources we have fallen short of our goals,” King said, in a press release. “A master plan for Big Rock Garden Park was completed in 2001. However, lack of funding and maintenance resources has prevented full implementation of that plan.”

King said a local nonprofit group presented a proposal last year to put the park up for lease. The proposal included plans to use the property to display and sell a variety of sculptures and use the proceeds to cover operation costs.

If the city decides to pursue such an option, any individual or organization could pursue a lease for the park.

“All proposals submitted would be aggressively evaluated to ensure that a lease would benefit the park and the community,” King said. “If a proposal is selected, a lease contract will be drafted to define how the public park will be operated and maintained, and to define the relationship between the lessee, the city and the Friends of Big Rock Garden volunteer organization.”

Big Rock Garden Park, located at 2900 Sylvan St., is an 11-acre park. It includes 2.7 acres developed as a public sculpture garden and nearly 8.3 acres of undeveloped forest overlooking Lake Whatcom. The city bought the property in 1992.

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