Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood announced (Friday, April 24, 2020) he has signed an order canceling City-permitted events and facility reservations for the summer (PDF), as part of county-wide efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The order cancels most events that require any type of City approval or permit as well as most uses of City facilities and park reservable spaces. It includes many festivals, fund-raising events, street closures for events, reserved uses of park spaces and picnic shelters, and more.
The order formalizes and expands on an announcement earlier this week canceling City-hosted events and activities. These announcements follow Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach’s recommendation last week to cancel summer events throughout Whatcom County.
An April 14, 2020, Health Department statement notes that modeling presented on April 13 indicate Whatcom County is “on the downside of the first wave of COVID-19 spread locally.”
“Scenarios suggest that with continued social distancing, the next wave could be mitigated as well. However, if group gatherings resume too soon, the virus’ spread could be deadlier,” the statement continues.
Mayor Fleetwood said the City’s focus right now is continuing efforts to keep people healthy and resuming vital business functions to support our economy.
He encourages organizations planning events beyond August 30 to review public health orders and other available forecasting models to determine if they should proceed with those events.
City-permitted events canceled
The order cancels most activities that require any type of City approval or permit, or use of city facilities and park spaces, including events hosted by partner organizations and private groups by reservation or by facility use agreement.
This affects a broad range of events and activities, including:
Public events requiring City special event permits, such as Downtown Sounds, the Tour de Whatcom bicycle ride, Lake Whatcom Triathlon, Ragnar Race, April (August) Brews Day, neighborhood block parties and others are canceled.
Events that use City facilities and park spaces, such as Bellingham Bay Swim Team’s use of the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, are canceled.
Picnic shelters, sports fields, and other facilities that typically can be rented or reserved will not be available. Refunds for existing reservations are being processed.
Mayor Fleetwood said following Health Department recommendations has meant prioritizing services and making difficult decisions to help prevent a second wave of COVID-19.
“We acknowledge there are painful financial and social impacts of these cancellations throughout our community,” he said. “Yet the Health Department recommendation and other data we are seeing leads us to feel strongly these are the right steps to take to protect public health and be able to resume economic activity.”
City staff are working with the many community partners that have agreements or contracts with the City, to evaluate needs and next steps on a case-by-case basis.
“Many affected events are fundraisers for important causes,” Mayor Fleetwood said. “We all regret the impact canceling these events will have on our vibrant non-profit community. To those who are able to donate, please give generously to help keep our non-profit services intact.”
City-hosted events and programs canceled
As announced earlier this week, most City-hosted programs and activities were already canceled for the summer. Today’s order expands and formalizes these cancellations.
“City parks and trails will remain open for use, but we are monitoring parks regularly, and asking that people not gather or spend too much time congregating,” said Interim Parks and Recreation Department Director Nicole Oliver.
Oliver said staff throughout the City are working hard to find innovative ways to host small-group activities this summer with strict limits in place to meet public health requirements. These efforts, being considered by Parks and Recreation, Bellingham Public Library, Whatcom Museum, and the Public Works Department, will be announced on a case-by-case basis.
Downtown Sounds photo by Aaron Brick