At the Camas City Council workshop meeting Monday night, the council unanimously gave direction to city staff to prepare a general obligation bond this November to fund the construction of a new aquatics center.
The news is a major breakthrough in the years-long battle to build a new aquatics center to accommodate the growing demands of all competitive and recreational swimmers, as well as address learn-to-swim and health-related programs.
“We gave staff direction to look at the Buhman property, which is adjacent to Fallen Leaf Lake, across from Heritage Park,” said Camas Mayor, Shannon Turk. “The land, which is just over six acres, is already owned by the City of Camas, and Camas residents have made it very clear they want a new pool. I feel this is a positive step forward.”
Monday’s motion gives staff direction to prepare a general obligation bond that will be presented to voters on the November ballot. The general obligation bond would fund the construction of the new aquatics center.
“Council will look at other sites in Camas, as well, and to look at getting a general obligation bond, which is putting a vote to the people on whether they would be willing to pay for a new pool,” said Turk.
Over the past several months, Camas has been meeting with Washougal to build a community center that has a pool, and Turk said it was time to change the direction.
“Although we’re not saying no to a partnership with Washougal, we feel it’s in our best interest to go forward without them,” said Turk. “The meetings with Washougal weren’t moving this forward.”
City Council member, Melissa Smith, agreed.
“The bond amount hasn’t been determined, and this directs staff to look at property and put in a phased approach,” said Smith. “Timing is in November, and we would have to know the bond amount by August 6.”
Smith added there is potential to buy surrounding parcels, but that’s very preliminary.
“We could accommodate the needs for a 50,000 square foot pool facility,” said Smith. “If we went further and wanted to add more, there would be potential for that.”
Turk said this general obligation bond would be offset by the retiring of the Camas Public Library general obligation bond, which happens in 2019. “This bond would be offsetting,” she said.
Smith said the city staff will also exhaust every possible site, and that preparing this for the November ballot is a super tight timeframe, but doable.
“We have to take advantage of the momentum,” said City Council member, Don Chaney. “Shannon embraces this. We have a chance to do it. If the people say no, they say no. The challenge will be to make the timeline. The community will see that we heard them.”
The city has made numerous failed attempts to build a new aquatics center over the years, but Turk is determined.
“We’re not going to fail anymore,” said Turk.
Chaney said this location is optimum.
“People talk about location,” said Chaney. “I have a different view, it has to be a destination. It’s like Crown Park, and a competitive pool will bring money to downtown. This plan has full council support. We are re-engineering the intersection there, and that will be a big improvement. It was a great meeting today. Everyone should be happy with that meeting.”
Camas has been feeling the effects of losing access to aquatic centers over the past two years. First, the Crown Park Pool was closed, and then Camas High School swim teams were no longer allowed to use the Lacamas Athletic Club’s pool.
“It’s been a real challenge,” said Dave Peddie, a part of the 2018 State Champion Camas High School Boys Swim team. “Losing our home pool hurt us.”
Local residents have also been dismayed at losing the Crown Park Pool, feeling like their children are missing out on great summertime experiences, as well as the loss of valuable swimming lessons.
“This is great news,” said Darlene Lumbard, Head Coach of Columbia River Swim Team. “This is a chance to build a pool for everyone. We can all come together with a good design to reach all the things our community needs. A center encompasses all kinds of things with a competitive pool. Building the right aquatics center will have everything from competitive to therapeutic. It should have all the necessary programming.
“A well-run aquatics center has a private team, a high school team, recreation, learn to swim, scuba, kayak training, water therapy, silver sneakers. I would prefer a deep end because you can do so much more with a deep end. You can do synchro, diving, and water polo. This is a great opportunity to build the right pool. There’s no diving in the community, and there are a lot of gymnasts here. The deep end should go into a five foot, and then maybe with an L to it, where you have your learn-to-swim pool. You can put in your therapeutic work there, as well. This is so exciting!”
The next article will look at aquatics center design options and what they can do for a community.