hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Economic Development Discussion, Post #3

A reader comments:

Since 1951 we have been  visitors to our cottage at Point Bob. All of our children have enjoyed the time and now our grandkids are enjoying it.

For years, I have wondered how any of the permanent residents  eke out enough money to live at the Point.

Point Roberts has some issues primarily being cut off from the rest of US.  It could  become a destination and attract more visitors, but would need a destination point.  Maple beach was once a destination, but now [the county] has basically taken away all of public parking, so visitors  have a tough time going there. Visitors used to keep at least a couple of well-known stores going strong.

The fishing at the Point used to be excellent, with many coming down to fish. The Point is surrounded by water on three sides. Has to be the only place in North America that is surrounded by water and has No Public Launch ramp. Find a place to launch and they will come. There is a place for a ramp over by the Marina breakwater that is supposed to be public property, but has somehow been taken over by marina and seems to be a “no Trespass” area.

The big yellow Cannery building should have been a destination, but instead sits empty and deteriorating, If they had gone one step more and restored the pier that used to be there, it would have been a great destination supporting lots of local business.

A good bar with entertainment would be a great attraction, but from what I understand the border folks will not  allow local Canadian bands to come and play at the Point.   I forgot to mention that we at Point Roberts could have lightning speed internet if we could  connect to the big Fiber optic cable out by the lighthouse. I believe it is one of the main lines feeding Vancouver.

All of this said, I do enjoy the peace and quiet, but still feel bad about those that are try to make a living. Perhaps a destination for Parcel pickup and Gas is all the Point can expect. I think not.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Different View on Economic Development for the Point

I enjoyed your whimsically negative blog about an economic development plan for Point Roberts. In fact, there is such a plan, which was adopted by the Point Roberts Taxpayers’ Association in 2012 and updated in 2014. Attached is a copy. We acknowledge that the targets for employment and business growth are vague; this is because there is practically no economic data available for the Point.

We would be the first to admit that having an economic development plan does not automatically bring economic development, which is tough to achieve given the numerous constraints we face. We have, however, found it a useful reference when we consider issues such as the radio towers or the replacement of the pier at Lighthouse Marine Park. We think it is helpful for a voice representing residents/taxpayers who can speak positively about the mutual benefits that accrue to both permanent and seasonal residents from sustainable, harmonious economic activity that contributes to the quality of Point Roberts for all of us. We are particularly interested in the opportunities that may be on the bright side of some of our significant constraints, such as the border, which can be variously viewed as our biggest problem or the saviour of our unique community. Certainly a number of our businesses such as gas stations and parcel depots are there strictly because of the border, whatever we might think about their contribution to the community.

Economic development is as much about retaining existing businesses as it is about attracting new ones. For example, through our participation in the Border Issues Committee we have supported (thus far unsuccessfully) efforts by Brewster’s to be allowed to employ Canadian chefs on a part-time basis, because there are no chefs resident in Point Roberts and none on the US mainland who are willing to going through the border four times for an evening’s work. It is very difficult to operate a quality restaurant without this kind of expert help.

We are realizing that this objective of business retention may become even more important now that gasoline prices and the Canadian dollar have declined significantly and appear likely to stay low for some time. Those trends will affect everything from the amount of traffic through the border (maybe a good thing) to property values (which are totally driven by the Canadian dollar).

In short, we think that having a thoughtful and constructive perspective on the economic future of the Point may help us to build a better community for all. It can certainly do no harm.

Ken Cameron FCIP RPP

[the following is the first page of the economic development plan that Mr. Cameron refers to in his comment.  much thanks to him for his response.  judy ross]

Purpose: To promote increased business and employment opportunities in Point Roberts, 

while preserving its natural beauty and small town charm – our biggest benefits for both 

residents and visitors.

Vision: A sustainable community that can provide jobs and local economic development 

to support its permanent residents by meeting the needs of both permanent and seasonal 

residents while preserving and enhancing Point Roberts’ unique lifestyle.

1. Significantly increase the total number of jobs in Point Roberts by 2020.

2. Increase the proportion of jobs that can support a family by 2020.

3. Incubate or attract more new businesses in Point Roberts by 2020.

1. Encourage businesses and residents in Point Roberts to “buy local” to keep money 

circulating in the community.

2. Support initiatives to encourage visitors to extend their stay in Point Roberts.

3. Target and recruit appropriate businesses and residents for whom Point Roberts offers a

unique locational advantage.

4. Build the economy by building community through enhanced communications (eg. Point-
Interface, Point Roberts Radio) stronger artistic and social activities (eg. Arts and Music 

Festival, July 1/4) and enhanced amenities for residents and visitors alike (eg. Marine 

5. Work with other community partners and government agencies to maximize the 

economic advantages provided by the Canada-U.S. border and to minimize the 


6. Protect the natural environment and enhance the built environment as key economic

Friday, March 6, 2015

Economic Development in Point Roberts

In the 20+ years I've lived here, I've gone to a lot of meetings of one sort or another.  The quilters' group is an exception, but otherwise I can't think of a single group that has not at one time or another, and more often more often, brought up the issue of "Economic Development."  "What we need in Point Roberts is an economic development plan," some guy pontificates.  How that would happen, is not further discussed.

My educational background is in literature, philosophy, law, and medicine, so I wouldn't be looking to me for enlightenment on economic development.  And yet, at least three of those give me some imaginative reach to a Point Roberts that has economic development.   Since it's a rural area, there would be farms with large machines that would need maintenance by well-paid employees.  (Not so much since our scant total of almost 5 square miles is not going to provide much in the way of agricultural development.  Forestry?  Well, we could cut down all the trees in Point Roberts in a couple of weeks, I suppose, and then our main claim to tourism would be gone.  A series of small factories producing....what?  Given the necessary border issues, not very likely because not very competitive.  We could have a lot of home-based consultants providing services over the internet, which might be doable if we had internet with any great speed, which we do not.  But even if we did, such consultant businesses don't hire a lot of employees, so.....

Our major businesses are package/parcel services and gas stations.  Is there a plan by which we could have even more of these and would anybody think that was a good idea?  The tourism business has some play: you can come here and go to the beach or rent a bicycle or go fishing off the pier (if there were a pier) or go to the library.  The library is available year round but the beach and bicycles are very much a partial year activity, and the fishing?  Perhaps don't ask but the County thinks maybe next year, or maybe the year after that.  Or sometime.  And then there is the fact that there are only 1300 of us who are permanent residents and half of us are retired and 200 are kids, neither of which groups is looking for good-paying jobs.  Maybe a tiny town devoted to assisted living services?

Well, my imaginative expedition fails to find economic development in our future.  Someone at those meetings is always touting 'an artist colony' or 'a concert venue', although they don't explain exactly what is the economic development likely from an artist colony, or why the Trinity Lutheran Church is not already a terrific concert venue for small audiences.  And our current concert series, which is very high quality, does not exactly fill that space week after week.  "Let's go down to the Point and buy some gas, pick up a package, and go to a concert"...Doesn't ring true to me.

So, perhaps some of our readers can tell us what would be the elements of an economic development plan for Point Roberts.  I've read a fair amount on this topic around the net, and the descriptions of the places looking for development never seem to come with the problematic aspects of the Point.  I found this site particularly helpful.  The last few pages include survey instruments that are particularly informative and fun to try to fill out.  One of the surveys inquires about 20 things we should have to pursue economic development.  Police and fire departments were the only things I was confident I could say yes to what with the Border personnel from Homeland Security, 1 County sheriff, and about 30 volunteer firemen who live in Canada or somewhere else in the state of Washington.  Well, sort of yes...


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sweet Sounds

This past weekend, we in Point Roberts were gifted with two extraordinary concert performances on Friday and Saturday nights.  You'd think we were an urban setting to have such options for our entertainment.  But, we are not.  We're a very small place that's difficult to get to.  And thus it is worth calling to all our attention what extraordinary events these were.

On Friday night, Michael Munro impressively performed four big pieces, one each by Bach, Berg, Schoenberg and Schubert.  On Saturday night, The Mystic Winds (a woodwind quintette) gave us a swirling experience of many pieces associated with World War I, whose 100th anniversary we just 'celebrated.'  (Actually, hard to think of celebrating that event.)  Both performances involved professional musicians coming here to give us an evening of splendor.  (Not enough that we live in a place of unusual beauty but we also get culture!)

That we get it at all is to the credit of Lucy Williams who has been producing dozens of concerts on behalf of the community and Trinity Lutheran Church for the past half dozen years or so.  She started out doing it as a way to raise money for an emergency generator that the church needed in order to qualify as an emergency shelter in the event of a real emergency.  And after that was paid for, she continued bringing us music of all kinds in order to fund the annual children's summer music camp and, more recently, to help with fundraising for the new library.  (Since I'm heavily involved in the new library fundraising, I'm particularly grateful to her for this help.)  But, more than that, we can all be grateful to her for her gift to the community: it is not an easy matter to produce a dozen concerts a year when it is all voluntary.  Lucy has been able to find individuals and groups of all kinds--jazz, fada, Barbershop, popular, classical, etc.--AND has been able to persuade them to come here to play for us without having to pay them: they perform as a gift.  Furthermore, she does not sell tickets to these fine performances: it is all by donation, because it is all for the benefit of the community.  A gift squared.

In Vancouver and other places where I have lived, concert tickets are not obtained by donation.  It's another part of the unusualness of Pt. Roberts that our concerts do not require us to buy tickets, although we are asked to make a donation to something that is for our own benefit and use.  So extremely admirable as a community model.

I wrote last month about local institutions and our need for them to be strong.  Lucy has a very strong record for the institution of producing concerts here.  How can we thank her for her service?  We can thank her best by going to the concerts whenever we can.  She already has 10 more concerts scheduled including a trombone group and TWO choirs singing ABBA!  Great.  Come, enjoy!  Thanks to Lucy!

Church concert schedule, here. (down at the bottom of the page)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Archeological Discovery?

Well, it's hard to know how to feel about phones nowadays, but this does seem something of an extreme response.  Could it be reported as some kind of code violation?

Fortunately, there's still a phone outside the front door of the library at the community center, free for the use as long as you just want to call locally.  I think this one had more features; or at least one more: that you could dial out of Point Roberts.  Anyway, another thing to remember: "Remember when there was a phone booth on Pt. Roberts; maybe in front of the Chevron station, or like that?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Signs of Life, Signs of Progress

Gasoline, at Pt. Roberts's stations, is selling for (lowest) $43.9/liter.  That's about $1.75 a gallon.  (The other four stations are rather higher, but it is something I never expected to see in all the rest of my life: gas in P.R. looking cheap.

The yellow crocus in my shady yard are blooming; the yellow crocus on Tyee out in open sun are blooming; it's January 28.  I've not, in my 22 years here, seen crocus blooming before February, or for the most part even before Valentine's Day.

And last night, the Whatcom County Council stood up in unison and said NO to the radio station's towers application for a conditional use permit.  It was hard to imagine they would do otherwise, but nowadays, it's hard to really imagine a sure thing.  Of course, the radio station owners can apply for yet another hearing in Superior Court.  But if so, it seems like the County would have to defend their position, not the residents of Point Roberts.  The County has a lawyer on salary, which we in Point Roberts do not.

Update: I am told by those involved that if KRPI chooses to appeal, then the NO Towers folks here in P.R. will also have to mount a legal case; i.e., hire a lawyer.  This would be because the County will hire a lawyer unfamiliar with the case and, as I understand it, the NO Towers' folks current lawyer IS familiar and thus more likely to mount a persuasive case.  This is tactics beyond a blogger's paygrade, so I don't know.  But that's what I am told.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Communication: Always a Problem

Always an issue: as Steve McQueen summed it up in "Cool Hand Luke" about 4 decades ago, "What we have here is a problem in communication."  That may be the essence of what we always are having here in Point Roberts.

Last week, I heard from the PREP group.  This is another volunteer group, in this case one organized around having solutions ahead of time for at least some of the problems that might confront us in the event of some kind of disaster where the peninsula became at least metaphorically cut off from the mainland in terms of getting needed help.  How do we communicate with one another in such a situation?  All the regular electronic methods might well be unavailable: no functioning land phones, cell phones, or internet.  (What, they're going to deprive us of G3 or whatever it is that gets to the cloud all the time?)

The good news is that there is old-fashioned ham radio, which, I think, is the kind my father used to fool around with in high school about 80 years ago.  PREP has received a $7,500 grant from Puget Sound Energy to provide them with more of the kind of equipment that is needed for that to work for us.  There is a ham radio operators group here on the Point.  That is good to know (which is to say that we have people who know how to use the equipment that is being made available).  Good work, PREP!  And thanks to Puget Sound Energy's community giving program.

Another kind of communication problem was evident last night at the Fire District meeting.  There has been a problem with the various communication systems used by the District Volunteers for many years, apparently.  When an emergency call is issued, it is sent to the pager of whoever is first in line on duty, who then goes to the location where help is needed.  That volunteer assesses whether additional help is needed and puts a call out to other volunteers.  The problem lies in the fact that the pagers don't always work very well with the antennae available to them here or in Bellingham.  So nobody may get the call.  And the additional help doesn't show until they find some other way to communicate.  They have radios in the vehicles, but if the volunteer is performing CPR and needs backup, he can't easily say, "Just wait a minute while I go out to the vehicle and make a few calls on my radio."

So it's a communication problem that apparently can't be solved with different/better equipment: the problem is too many trees on the ground and too little antenna way up high.  Or at least that is how I understood the problem.  They're working on it, but I'm thinking that they've been working on it for some years and aren't getting it solved.  There was a suggestion that the problem was "political," but I don't know what that might mean.  Perhaps the hand of the do-no-good US Congress is reaching clear up to Point Roberts?

[Note: the Fire District videotapes their meetings and posts the tapes on their website (Fire District 5, Whatcom County).  You can listen to the discussion of this topic yourself and, if you are more technically competent than I am (wouldn't be hard),  you may obtain a better understanding of the problem that seems to be lacking a solution other than a giant antenna.  The video site is here, but the January 9, 2015 video is not yet posted there.]