Council votes against land purchase near Sandy Swimming Hole

Site would have provided parking spaces and park by church, school

Area residents spent time at the Sandy Swimming Hole Monday, enjoying picnics, sunbathing, rafting and cooling off in the Washougal River, as temperatures neared 100 degrees. Last night, the Washougal City Council voted 4 to 2, against purchasing land from Riverside Seventh-day Adventist Church to create a park and overflow parking for users of the Sandy Swimming Hole. Buy this photo

The Washougal City Council has voted against purchasing land from Riverside Seventh-day Adventist Church, to create a park and overflow parking for users of the Sandy Swimming Hole.

The vote was 4 to 2, with Brent Boger and Connie Jo Freeman voting for the $130,000 purchase of less than one acre of land at 463 N. Shepherd Road — across the street from the park. Michelle Wagner had an excused absence from the meeting.

Development costs for creating a park and parking lot at the site were estimated to be approximately $400,000. The lot would have included 23 parking stalls.

There are currently 18 parking spaces at the Sandy park site.

The purchase and development were to be funded using park impact fees.

Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay said the $400,000 could be usedtoward current city parks. She described Sandy as a small usage park that is primarily occupied for two or three months in the summer.

City Administrator David Scott said, prior to the vote, the city could seek grants for development costs and safety provisions after it acquired the property.

Councilor Dave Shoemaker expressed concern regarding Washougal having the resources to maintain its current parks.

Councilman Paul Greenlee said a new park would create an ongoing operational expense.

While Deena Cunningham and Amy Sims were fortunate enough to find parking spaces near the Sandy Swimming Hole Monday, they agreed additional parking is needed.

Cunningham, of Vancouver, enjoyed sitting by the Washougal riverfront with her dog, Sheeba, and daughter Karlye, 22, relaxed on a raft in the river.

Deena said they have been to the Sandy park 10 to 12 times this summer.

“My kids grew up on this river,” she said.

Deena said more parking would be great, “especially for all the people who can’t walk that far.”

She is hoping more sand can be added to the riverfront surface, which currently includes rocks.

Sims, also of Vancouver, said she sometimes parks in an overflow space, on the northwest corner of Shepherd Road and Eighth Street.

“It’s not very far,” she said.

The overflow parking lot, which has been available for two years, will soon not be an option, according to City Engineer Rob Charles.

The agreement with property owner David Moss is in effect through Sept. 1. He plans to build town homes on that property.

At the end of last night’s council meeting, Freeman asked council members to reconsider and purchase the Riverside property.

“Even if we sit on the land for a while, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.

The city’s 2014 budget includes $400,000 for the acquisition of overflow parking for the Sandy Swimming Hole, development of parking and a playground. Part of the amount had been rolled over from the 2012 budget, which included $250,000 for parking improvements at Sandy.

The Sandy Swimming Hole has access to the Washougal River, restrooms, and a deck with picnic tables.