CAMAS — When Karen Largura and her three kids moved to Camas in 2016, she thought the city was lacking one thing: a family-friendly recreation center.
There are plenty of places to recreate around Camas, she said, but those places tend to be spread out.
“My kid takes swimming lessons at a woman’s house,” Largura said. “I like a place where the focus is more on community involvement and somewhere that brings people together.”
Camas officials have been frantically working the last few months to try to get a bond measure on the ballot in November to build the sort of place Largura and many city residents are looking for. The city wants to replace the current center at 1718 S.E. Seventh Ave., a former school building constructed in 1915 that the city acquired in 1985.
Largura was one of 60-plus people at Lacamas Lake Lodge on Tuesday night for the city’s first open house on the proposed new community aquatic center. The issue has garnered much discussion in recent years, as the historic Crown Park pool closed after the summer of 2017, despite residents’ efforts to save it. The pool, which opened in 1954, was officially demolished in March, and residents have continually told city officials they want some sort of replacement.
Plans to renovate Crown Park with another seasonal pool or different aquatic feature, such as a splash pad, didn’t receive much public support. City officials then moved toward building a new community center with an aquatic feature.
“I moved here from St. Louis, and we had a place like that,” Largura said. “It brought the community together. It brings together demographics from all ages and cultures. People move to Camas for the great schools. There are tons of young families here. This can be a place to cater to families.”
City Administrator Pete Capell said the city council has until Aug. 6 to pass an ordinance to get something on the November ballot. He’s not yet sure how much the bond will be for, as city officials first need to figure out what amenities the public wants in the community center and what city councilors think the public is willing to pay.
There has also been talk of a partnership with the city of Washougal to cover some costs, and in return, Washougal residents would get a discounted fee for use of the facility. Washougal City Manager David Scott said the city is still interested in a partnership, and “any potential opportunities would be around operations.”
Capell said one option is to phase the project and ask residents to pass and pay for a bond to fund part of it, while securing private donations to build the rest. Regardless, the center is expected to include a pool.
“A pool is a high priority for a lot of people, including our council,” Capell said.
That was evident Tuesday night. At the open house, the city gave all guests three stickers and asked people to place them on the amenities they want the most. The amenity with the most stickers was a competitive pool, followed by a leisure pool. No other amenity came within 20-plus votes. The next top two vote-getters were new sports fields and renovation of existing fields in the city, both of which could be part of the project, Capell said.
The rest of the proposed amenities ranked as follows: a track, fitness center, multipurpose room, gymnasium and community room.
As for the location, Camas officials have focused primarily on city-owned property off of Lake Road across the street from the entrance to Heritage Park. The 6 1/2 -acre site was listed as the favorite among three sites included on a feasibility study the city commissioned in 2001. With the property’s proximity to Fallen Leaf Lake Park, Round Lake, Lacamas Lake and the Lacamas Lake Lodge, where the city offers exercise classes, Capell said it could create a “recreation corridor” for residents.
Darren Alexander — who moved to the city with his wife, Elise, about 10 months ago from Texas — said the proposed location makes sense.
“You have the downtown area and this area,” he said. “The downtown is for shopping and restaurants. This area is for recreation, and they’re just five minutes from each other.”
The Alexanders and Largura said they aren’t excited by the idea of paying higher taxes to pay for the facility, but they are willing to do so for the amenities it would bring to Camas.
“It comes with living here,” Largura said. “It ain’t going to be Portland. It’s a trade-off.”