Community Aquatics Center

After reviewing 12 Camas Community Aquatics Center and sports fields options Monday night, Camas City Council voted unanimously to present one of those options to voters in the coming days, weeks, and months. It’s the next step in gathering public input on design, features, and costs.

Option I was selected, which gives Camas City staff specific directions as to how to proceed with planning, includes a community aquatics center design with two pools (a recreational pool with slides and an 8-lane, 25 yard competitive pool), extensive gym, community/event room, and a complete renovation of three Camas sports fields.

Under the direction of Camas Mayor Shannon Turk, Camas city staff has been drafting community aquatics center and sports fields designs in preparation to put a general obligation bond to voters on the November ballot. They have until August 6 to submit details in order to make the ballot.

“Voters have told us repeatedly they want a new community aquatics center and address sports fields concerns,” said Turk. “I feel we’re moving in the right direction.”

Monday’s vote is about water safety, said local resident, Doug Lumbard, who attended the session.

“We don’t have a community pool,” he said. “Swimming is multi-generational, and anybody from little babies to senior citizens will be able to use this new pool. It has something for everyone.”

The preferred site for the community aquatics center is six acres of city-owned property near Fallen Leaf Lake on Lake Road, across from Heritage Park.

At Monday’s council workshop, Camas City Administrator Pete Capell presented 12 options to council.

“All options include the $5.8 million expense for offsite traffic and signal improvements, including adding significant parking at Heritage Park,” said Capell. “The Sierra and Lake Road intersection has been close to needing warrants for a signal, and it’s been a problem area so we’ve included funding for signals at Lake and Sierra, as well. The site has a lot of topography to it. Designers are trying to minimize the footprint as they work with the topography.”

Community Aquatics Center
Aerial view of Camas Community Aquatics Center.

This proposed community aquatics center design (78,000 square feet) has three floors, with both recreational and competitive pools that have very flexible elements. To the west are locker rooms and support spaces. This design will have roll-up doors to the east facing Fallen Leaf Park to create a more outdoor pool feeling. The second floor has a basketball gym with casual seating areas, and a meeting/party room with access to an outdoor terrace in a forest setting. The third floor has a small multi-purpose room for revenue generating purposes. The recreation pool is for all age groups and will include a slide and other fun water features. The competitive pool will have eight 25-yard lanes and spectator seating for 300. The proposed design has a lobby with views of the competition pool, which will have a lot of natural lighting. Cost: $53 million for the aquatics center, plus $19 million for the gym and community room. The city is preparing better cost breakdowns because the building is not that expensive — a lot of the cost is site work.

“We are tucking the building into the hillside,” said Capell. “There are many grades. The gym is tucked into the hillside. The building works with the topography and has a concentrated footprint with a good setback from Lake Road. Has real simple roof shapes with a lower profile. It has nice illumination.”

Community Aquatics Center
First floor, with a 2-pool option.
Community Aquatics Center
Interior view of proposed Camas Community Aquatics Center.

Sports Field Renovations

Council nixed the inclusion of a totally new sports complex in this general obligation bond, stating this should be part of a separate bond, but they did propose making extensive renovations to three existing parks: Forest Home, Prune Hill Sport Park, and Dorothy Fox Field.

The Forest Park renovation would convert the two fields to synthetic turf and make several site improvements. The Prune Hill Sport Park renovation would have synthetic turf in the lower field, and smaller turf soccer fields, as well as installation of field lighting. At Dorothy Fox, the existing soccer and lacrosse fields would be converted to turf, plus lighting would be installed.

“Adding turf and lighting would create a longer window of time for use,” said Capell.

The cost of the sports field renovations: $6 million.

The recent open house for the new community aquatics center and sports fields was well attended, and the city has used feedback from that meeting, as well as online feedback to guide their decisions.

Community Aquatics Center
Proposed renovations at Forest Home Park.

Capell said the leisure and competitive pools are very popular. Using Option I as guidance, the city will have a booth at Camas Days that will provide the public with details, and another opportunity to provide input on designs and programming.

Community members, including Randy Curtis, expressed concerns are about parking given the popularity of Heritage Park in the summer. He is also concerned about community aquatics center users crossing Lake Road for access.

The project includes significant parking and traffic enhancements – not only at the site of the new community aquatics center, but also nearby – to ensure maximum access, traffic flow, and safety for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. The following is part of the overall Option K plan:

  • At Heritage Park, 100 vehicle and eight trailer parking stalls will be added for a total of 152 vehicle and 53 trailer parking spaces.
  • Lacamas Lake Lodge will maintain its 66 existing vehicle parking spaces. At the community aquatics center itself, 134 vehicle parking spaces will be constructed. Patrons may also utilize parking at Heritage Park and Lacamas Lake Lodge.
  • These parking projects add 242 new parking spaces for a total of 405 spaces in the area.
  • Additional frontage improvements, site work, and Lake Road upgrades will be implemented.
  • A traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of NW Sierra Street and NW Lake Road.
  • The upcoming roundabout at NE Everett Street and NE Lake Road will further promote access, traffic flow, and safety.

City planners have carefully looked at the traffic impact if we have an aquatics center would be built at this location. They went out to 2040 for planning and their research showed the overall impacts are fairly minimal from the community center aspect. From a queuing stand point, it was an additional car length.
Council member Ellen Burton expressed concern about increasing boat traffic. To which Capell said: “They’re already there, and they’re parking on the street. It’s an unsafe situation. This plan calls for additional parking to get boaters off the street.”

The council’s vote Monday night caps the November bond at $78 million. Council members asked staff to look for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality.

“This ordinance number sets a maximum and allows us to work down from that,” said Camas City Finance Director, Cathy Nickerson. “The number in the ordinance is what will go on the ballot measure, but council has the ability to use that as a maximum amount. The debt service from that bond issue is what you would levy.”

“I’m so excited by the visuals,” said Council member Don Chaney. “I feel comfortable with the plans. We started this looking at this piece of property, but remember there are costs, and we own that property. I really think we move on this but not be blind to other potentials down on the road. Let’s go with the max, and for the full project.”

Council member Greg Anderson called for a motion to approve Option I, which was supported unanimously by council.

“A lot of work went into this,” said Anderson. “The full meal deal makes a lot of sense, but it’s a big ask. And there’s A LOT in this ask. I hope we stick with this location. It would have to be compelling for me to support a different location. I’m on board for the full deal. We need to sound committed to it. We can’t be wishy washy or it will not fly in November.”

A lot of heavy lifting is still necessary. For example, Curtis, who presided over the construction of Salem’s Kroc Center Pool, said the city needs to determine programming, specific designs, and weigh all the maintenance costs.

Paying For Community Aquatics Center

There was discussion about deferring the community/gym/event space to phase two to give the city more time to seek grants and private funding, which would lower overall debt service by $19 million. Given Monday’s vote, the maximum annual cost would be $474 per median home value of $464,400.

In 2021, the Camas Library levy expires, as does a $1.32 school bond, which gives the city $1.44 in additional capacity. The levy would go down in 2021. Camas School District said their forecast that a new bond levy won’t be required until 2026.

Chaney emphasized that the city find ways to spend less money on the overall project.

“It’s important to find cost savings,” said Chaney. “This is the people’s money.”

18th LD State Representative Larry Hoff was in attendance, and said the city is wise to plan for the future, and look 20 years ahead.

“The city is only going to grow,” said Hoff.

“How is the school district aligned with this?” asked resident Susan Schultz. “I know the high school teams are having a hard time getting some lanes to swim in. I would hope this pool has all the things we need for competitive swimming. Make sure the schools are aligned with the planning. Make sure parking can handle 2-4 buses.”

“This is a win for safety,” said Lumbard. “This will give children and people of all ages the opportunity to learn how to swim year-round. I hope the community adds their input on design and programming.”

“I’m very excited about the possibilities,” said Mayor Turk at the close of Monday’s session.

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