Apr 052011

I don’t know what the nautical version of the “rubber meeting the road” is but it seems like we are getting pretty close. I have a sense that as a result of the “dinner that was supposed to be with the Lummi Tribe” more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the Lummis really don’t want to have a ferry dock at Gooseberry Point. If it remains there the County will have had to pay and promise more than they are willing and able to pay. One might also suspect that the County would really like to get out of the ferry business and are masterfully politicking the situation to be able to point the finger at the Lummi Nation.

Understandably, this makes people angry and words like “commitment,” “agreements,” and “fairness” are tossed around. I suppose that if the Island gets the short end of the stick on any sort of ferry agreement that the Lummi Indians, at the very least, will be able to give us grief counseling. They are experts being on the receiving end of broken promises. I’m guessing they are empathatic if not sympathetic to the problems Lummi Islanders will face if service to Gooseberry Point ceases.

When PLIC’s highly regarded attorney met with the islanders at the Beach School many moons ago the first thing he said was that there was no future in a lawsuit against the Tribe. That, he told us, was a losing proposition. Negotiation and perhaps mediation were the best choices. As time has passed an additional realization has been made manifest—that the Lummi Nation, by virtue of large contributions, have a lot more political horsepower than does the island. There is talk of lawsuits again for we are litigious by nature. It would probably be a waste of money.

While the County negotiates I will again recommend (and suggest this from the point of view of resilience, self-sufficiency and transitioning to a different energy and climate future) that we spend some time coming up with a contingency plan on the ways we might solve our transportation problems for the long term given a different  set of circumstances.

In his weekly essay William Kunstler lays it all out for you and it’s worth reading. Here’s the money quote:

“That’s all we care about in the USA, the cars. We can’t get over the cars. We can’t talk about anything except how we’ll find magical new ways to run all the cars. This is a very tragic sort of stupidity and if we don’t change our thinking about it, from the highest level on down, history is going to treat us very cruelly.”

The angst over the ferry to Gooseberry Point is all about our desire to continue to take our car to Bellingham or where ever, often with one person in it, whenever we want to go and for an affordable price. Long term, if Kunstler is right, we will have to dramatically change the way we do business (that is, how we get from point A to point B or learn not to go at all).

The reality is, something is going to change be it location, schedule or type of boat. Spend some time thinking about what could work, not necessarily what is ideal. Think about it in terms of reduced gasoline supplies and higher fuel prices. Read Kunstler and decide if he’s a nut or on the right track.

Let’s be practical. If something we think is bad actually happens we will have to deal with it individually and as a group. Changing the name of the island as some have suggested might be a good idea. That should burn some valuable time. We can start with a thousand suggestions and narrow it down. But, if this is how we’d like to proceed why not think out of the box?

Let’s sell the naming rights to the island and buy a new boat.

Google Island rolls off the tongue. Maybe AT &T Island (could improve cell phone reception. I kind of like Goldman Sachs Island to get us on the inside of future deals. Monsanto Island…free weed killer. One could go on and on.


  17 Responses to “Guess Who’s Not Coming To Dinner?”

  1. What a good idea to get money for changing the name of the island.! My suggestion is “Exxon Isle”– Ex-Isle for short….

  2. I we start building our own marina, with lots of little islands jutting towards the Lummi Marina, I bet we could have a fairly short bridge between the two. Get Sandy point into the act, and maybe we just extend Haxton Rd, all the way to Nugent.
    How’s that for ‘outside the box?’

  3. If we start…. (wish we had a preview or edit feature)

  4. For being dead sixteen years now William Kunstler has lost none of his verve.

    For those of us who slept through the presentation by “PLIC’s highly regarded attorney” was his point that there was “no future in a lawsuit against the tribe” because we would lose on the merits or because litigating it would cost too much?

  5. That’s food for thought, Randy, and it would probably work for us old folk. Jerry and I have acquired a condo in town to cut down on the tooing and froing. But what about the people who work and go to school? I guess they’ll just have to move away. It will be sad if this island — whatever its name is — gets to be only old people and rich people.

  6. This a ” let’s make the best out of a very bad situation strategy ” which works for the “Few,” but not the “Many”. Perhaps the Tribe could apply for a grant to buy out those of us who need to leave., For the average person, their home is their home is their largest single asset and their need for reasonable access is how their Families survive.

    If the Islanders adopt and show a defeatist attitude or actually desire this transition, it only will increase the chances of it happening. Who is the majority and what do they want ?

  7. Anne, I think in the future, if Mr. Kunstler is correct, transportation in Bellingham will be easier than on the island but will be no guarantee that you will find life in general easier than on the island. Island life will have many advantages over city life if gas shortages affect supply lines. I have long been arguing that the ferry is like the canary in the coal mine for Lummi Islanders. It gives us a chance to get ahead of the power curve (or no power curve) by rethinking how we will serve our transportation and logistics needs. I have to say that the “old people, rich people” argument falls flat with me. One could argue that the island, right now, is made up of old people and sort of rich people. After all, one half of the homes are not occupied full time. One assumes they are owned by people wealthy enough to have a second home and not use it very much. Young families make up a small percentage of the island as evidenced by the school population. Daily commuters are a minority as well. One could argue that if Lummi Island were a working island rather than a bedroom community of Bellingham it would be an economically healthier and more diverse place. My overriding argument is that the prevailing notions about the ferry are very short term and we need a longer term vision. (Greatly appreciated your write up on the dinner with(out) the Lummis. Nicely done!

  8. From April 1974 to June 1975 I live in a small cabin on Lummi Island. I was 22 years old, didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a job either. I made a little money babysitting and cleaning houses. Back then the Beach Store was a little store, there were no restaurants. I did not have a car. I walked everywhere. I walked all over this beautiful island, early morning, under the moonlit sky at night. Even in January when the north wind blew and the ground was frozen, I would walk down to the Post Office and get my mail from Jerry or JoAnne. Once a month a group of us would head into town in one car. We all pitched in for gas. We would go to the Prairie Market and shop (you bagged your own food, prices were good), we’d stop at the State liquor store for a few bottles of something then head on home. Alternate transportation: feet, bicycle, ride sharing……it’s a start…what are we all in such a hurry for anyway?

  9. I’ve been dismayed by people starting to talk about how the island will have to be developed to create a better economy for Islanders and have enough people to make a ferry a paying proposition. Good. Grief.. Don’t we ever learn?

    Several things come to mind that could give Islanders a way to work without going to town. For example, there’s a fair amount of fallow farmland here, and we need more food than the Islander is currently able to supply. How about increasing the farming (using sustainable means, of course) and creating some farm jobs for people who were previously doing construction work, for example? Or how about customer service call centers? All you need for those are telephones and parking around an office in someone’s refurbished garage or home office.

    That’s just what I could think of in about 5 minutes. If we can’t be more creative about how to become more self-sufficient than to think “bigger is better” or “growth is necessary”, I’ll be seriously disappointed. I think the island has more creative thinkers than that.

    I’ve said before that I believe we should ultimately be planning for passenger-only ferry service. Scheduled barge service for supplies could supplement the ferry service.

    So what do we do in the interim that moves us in the right direction? What if commuters organized and looked for a charter boat to lease that already has a convenient dock location in the downtown marina? The downtown marina would allow people to get quickly to the downtown bus hub, which has 15 minute service to everywhere. From Fairhaven, you have to go first downtown, and then wherever you are going (unless you’re going to WWU). WTA has been offering us vans for use by commuters for several years now. Let’s take them up on their offer and use them as shuttle buses. Have the vans (or, better, a small bus) meet the ferry at the marina and shuttle people to the bus hub, and vice versa. Since the ferry runs would only be once every couple of hours, that seems like it would be relatively easy to do. Perhaps such a passenger ferry would only make a couple of runs in the morning and a couple in the evening, leaving the vessel free to do charter tours during the day. Then we wouldn’t have to pay full time for the boat.

    When there used to be a shared car program in Bellingham, the City gave them a reserved parking space at the bus terminal. Perhaps we could also get a reserved space or two at both the downtown marina and the downtown bus terminal, which would make pick up and drop off easy, too.

    I’m not saying this would work for everyone, and it doesn’t address other problems like how to get supplies to the Island, but I think something like this might work for a lot of commuters, at least as an interim measure. The only new infrastructure necessary would be a passenger loading area here on the Island. People who need cars in town (and seriously, there are some who do) might be able to arrange monthly or annual parking at the marina for less than it was reported to cost in Fairhaven. Perhaps parking expense would be offset by the savings in gas no longer needed to drive from Gooseberry to town and back.

    I still think there’s a heck of a business opportunity for someone with a barge and warehouse space who would make scheduled freight trips to the Island, if there was a place for a barge to land (other than the quarry). A refrigerated truck trailer (or two) could be used to store perishables until the next barge run, and no truck drivers would have to wait in a ferry line. People could take a passenger ferry to town, pick up their town-side car (or a car shared with other Islanders), do their major shopping, drop it all off in boxes at the warehouse, and take the passenger ferry home. When the barge delivered to the Island, they’d pick it up their goods and take them home.

    Hopefully, over time, Islanders would be able to supply more and more of their own needs, especially with regard to food.

    All this would be a big change, yes. Would everyone be happy? No. Is this the kind of direction we need to be thinking about? I personally think it is. The reality is we can barely afford a car ferry right now. The reality is we probably aren’t going to be able to go to Gooseberry for much longer. The reality is we can’t rely on the County to solve these problems for us, though they might be able to help if we were clear about what we needed and wanted. Maybe they would help with a passenger loading area at our dock, for example, or a barge landing area. Maybe the existing dock could be adapted without budget-breaking expenditures.

    There may be good reasons why none of this would work or even help. It’s equally possible it could work well, at least the part for commuters.

    More ideas? Let’s brainstorm. Throw your ideas out there if you think there’s a possibility they might work, even if they sound farfetched. The final solutions will probably be something altogether different, but triggered by the early ideas.

  10. P.S. “Old people, rich people” is total BS. Look at the census info from 1990 (the last available on most demographics). Islanders had just about the same age and income spread as Washington state. One area where we did vary was a tendency to have more formal education. It would also be interesting to know how many of the empty houses on the Island are owned by people whose families bought them years ago when prices were a lot lower. A paid-off summer home is a lot easier to afford than two mortgages.

  11. I think a lot of this discussion centers around peoples ‘tolerance for risk’. Look at many of the arguments for either going to Fairhaven or Neptune Beach or having a Gooseberry Landing. A lot centers around having a boat for quick evacuation to the mainland for ambulance runs, citing the helicopter may not be able to fly 100% of the time. What are the real odds of that? Numbers are useful in doing a real risk assessment.
    How about fire fighting support from the mainland? How risky is not having Gooseberry Pt.
    Or, a different kind of boat, to a different terminal on the mainland? How often, and how risky is it that a trip will be cancelled?
    Or, how often is our own Chief unavailable for service to Gooseberry for Wx or unexpected repairs? Is that percentage of risk any less than the risk of a different kind of service?
    Laying out the options, and looking into the realities of each takes a lot of work. If the new lease fall apart, then we better get going on finding other ways to go from A to B to C, that involves the same or less risk, just maybe a different risk.

  12. Nancy, all your ideas are great. When I talk about a “working” island I’m not talking about development. I’m talking about farming, supply operations, using island people for plumbing, electricity, repair, transportation and other services. The marina area makes as much or more sense than Fairhaven. Why not two stops as long as we are in brainstorming mode. Re: old people; rich people. I will temporarily concede that my current impressions are no match for 1990 data!

  13. One additional thought: I think Fairhaven comes up because we all know there is a virtually unused passenger ferry terminal there and 3-4 passenger boats tied up to the dock all winter. Most of us are not aware of other places where one could get off a boat in the Bellingham area.

  14. As one of the part time residents…. I have enjoyed the luxury of having the ferry be a hop-skip boat ride to the mainland. But, every time I make this trip… I level with myself and think… This will not last.
    Following the months and months of negociations, letters, comments and a dinner I see that no intellegent progress has been made with “the situation”. Neither the County or the Lummi Nation have a plan. Where is the Lummi Nation Master Plan for the Marina?? And, why do we think we want to be a part of it??? Where is a REAL traffic study? Where is a REAL plan that carfully lays out their development for the next 50+ years??? Rising tides and tsunami evacuation routs should have us pulling out and looking for higher ground. If just not physically, morally too.

    Nothing in life is certain…. except death and taxes… I think the Islanders need to be really creative and solve this in an entirely new way. We cannot be dependent upon a situation that will continue to be in flux. Nancy Ging has propposed (as usual) the healtiest new thinking. The Island must look to our own resources and build a new future. We need to be more self-sufficient. This could represent a source of many island jobs.

    The money that the county is willing to “give” to the Lummi Nation for road improvements and safety, dock improvements, a tideland lease can be put into a trust/escrow account for Lummi Island — to be used for developing a small boat marina and ferry dock, a new ferry to get us to Fairhaven and for improvements to our School and Library. Change is hard and it is never convienent. But, I think it can have a very positive affect if we are driving the boat.

    The Lummi Nation with their Casino generates far more income than we could ever match.
    They no longer need our help.

  15. Donna,

    Thanks for your very pertinent comments. Sorry it took me so long to get on line to have it posted. The first comment awaits moderation. After this, assuming you use the same email, your comments should go right up.

    Welcome to the discussion.


    Randy Smith

  16. Thank you Randy —

  17. Hi Randy,

    Just discovered your blog; great stuff! You are ahead of us here on Orcas with your ferry situation. We are looking at the state budget and wondering when the political axe will be falling on our portion of the highway system. Meanwhile Seattle gets a bazillion dollar tunnel that no one actually wants…

    I think Kunstler is right on the mark about most things, especially the cars. My thought is that when gas gets to $10/gallon there will be a whole lot of people walking, bicycling and staying home. All good for us, good for the environment and bad for global corporations; what’s not to like in that scenario?

    Check us out at wiki.sustainableorcasisland.org (the site is not much yet but we’re working on it when we’re not tending the seedlings in the hoop house and fencing more gardens)

    I’d love to chat with you over a beer sometime,

    Ken Wood
    Deer Harbor, Orcas Island

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