With no site in sight, some Washougal library backers start to worry

Most supporters urge patience, hope to find downtown space

The chairman of the Friends of the Washougal Library fundraising committee is concerned that donors for a new building might be growing restless, as time passes and no new announcements are made about a future site for a library.

Laura Kelly thanked the Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) Board of Trustees for its commitment to Washougal, during a recent board meeting in the Washougal Community Center.

“The community is rapidly growing,” she said.

The Friends have raised approximately $25,000 during 12 fundraisers within the past two years. That includes book sales and the 2016 Dinner in White on the Columbia.

“Some residents are skeptical,” Kelly said, during the April 17 FVRL meeting. “The community is passionate.”

A new, larger library in Washougal has become more of a need, instead of a want, she added.

An “opportunity downtown”

The Washougal library, at 1661 “C” St., is 2,400 square feet, but backers of a new space hope to build a library four to five times that size.

“Our plans at this point have been to have the library in a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot space,” FVRL District Communications and Marketing Director Tak Kendrick has said.

The FVRL District has $1 million set aside in reserve funds to serve as seed money for fundraising efforts in Washougal.

FVRL District Executive Director Amelia Shelley encouraged attendees at the April 17 board meeting to “be really patient.”

“We are hoping an opportunity will come along for us in the downtown area,” she said. “We are in waiting mode.”

In December, the board authorized Shelley to engage in negotiations to purchase property for the future Washougal Community Library.

A site that would meet the accessibility and visibility criteria for a new library is a city-owned parcel next to City Hall, at 1725 “C” St. That site is currently a gravel parking lot, but some say the new-library backers aren’t totally sold on the “C” Street site.

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard said he has had discussions, but not negotiations, with Shelley regarding the parking lot as a possible library site.

“It does not appear that the library (district) is interested in that property at this time,” Guard said.

Kendrick said after the board meeting the FVRL District is still looking at site options.

“Nothing has been formally presented to us,” he said.

Shelley has sought legal counsel from a land-use attorney and a bond attorney, regarding how to proceed.

Asking voters in Washougal to approve a bond measure to build a library is not currently on the table, according to Shelley.

“We are thinking 30 to 40 years (out) for the library to last,” Shelley said. “We want to make good decisions. We are moving as fast as we can, but cautiously.

“It’s important to get the best investment for the taxpayers,” she added.

The current library building was constructed more than 35 years ago.

Interest in library programs continues

During a report to the FVRL board, Washougal Library Branch Manager Rachael Ries said the library had more than 59,320 visitors, checked out 54,113 items and issued 493 new library cards in 2016.

According to Ries, 2,798 attendees attended 176 programs at the library last year. The most popular programs included “Creature Feature” reptiles, as well as science experiments, magic shows and a holiday wreath-making session.

More than 100 people attended Summer Reading Program events, which were held in the Washougal Community Center, next to the library, because of the library’s size limitations.

So far this year, a total of 874 people have attended one or more of 72 library programs offered. Popular sessions have included a workshop about mushroom foraging and a St. Patrick’s Day teen night.

Memories are made at libraries

Alex Yost, co-owner of OurBar in downtown Washougal, said she still has strong memories of going to her local library while growing up on Mercer Island, Washington.

She remembers there were foxgloves and a rock path around the library, as well as a large rabbit statue.

Yost would like to see space in a new library in Washougal for lectures and meetings.

“There are opportunities for growth, education and engagement,” she said during the FVRL board meeting.

Yost and her husband, Kevin Credelle, have lived in Washougal for five years.

They opened OurBar four years ago. Yost said people meet for coffee there, and children read books from the bookshelf at the eatery.

Small businesses have become places for meetings, she said.

Yost would like to see Washougal have a “multi-use facility with a library at the core.”

“It would be a necessary asset for the community, to engage generations of residents,” she said.

Dinner in White tickets are available

The 2017 Dinner in White on the Columbia, a benefit for a new Washougal library will be held from 4 to 10 p.m.,

Saturday, Sept. 9, at Marina Park, by the Port of Camas-Washougal marina, 24 S. “A” St., Washougal.

Early bird tickets cost $25 per person, until July 31. After that, they will cost $30 each. The cost to add a catered dinner from Say Ciao will be $45.

Tickets are available to purchase at www.dinnerinwhiteonthecolumbia.com.