Community weighs in on future of Camas’ Crown Park, outdoor pool

Citizens have until Aug. 4 to say if city should repair, replace or remove 63-year-old pool

Next Steps:
  • Citizens have until Friday, Aug. 4, to provide feedback on the city’s second survey regarding possible updates to Camas’ Crown Park and Pool. That survey can be found online at www.ci.camas.wa.us.
  • After this, the city’s consultants from Greenworks PC, will gather responses and see if Option 1 or Option 2 makes more sense for the community.
  • The consultants will submit their one design recommendation to the Camas Parks and Recreation Commission.
  • Parks and Rec members will discuss the option and come up with their own recommendations to the Camas City Council. Randy Curtis, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, says the Commission will publicize this meeting to give citizens another chance to comment before it heads to city council.
  • The public will have another chance to weigh in on the proposal for Crown Park and Pool during the City Council’s public hearings. This will likely happen in the fall.

Volunteer Bobbie White, of Camas, shows two possible options for a Crown Park and Pool upgrade to visitors who wandered into the city of Camas' booth at last weekend's 43rd annual Camas Days celebration. Consultants from the Portland-based Greenworks PC, hired by the city of Camas earlier this year to help plan the future of Camas' Crown Park and Pool, surveyed community members this spring and received 1,400 comments about the beloved park and its 63-year-old pool -- the only public outdoor swimming pool in Clark County. The options the consultants came up with are the result of these 1,400 comments. The public can weigh in on the options online until Friday, Aug. 4, at www.ci.camas.wa.us.

Option 1 (above) shows a replacement outdoor swimming pool in Camas' Crown Park (shown as "3" on the illustration), while Option 2 (below) has an interactive water feature (3) instead. (Contributed illustrations/Courtesy of city of Camas)

Option 2

Visitors to the city of Camas’ booth at last weekend’s Camas Days celebration may have noticed two giant illustration boards depicting very different options for the future of Camas’ popular but aging Crown Park and Pool.

On the “Option 1” illustration, the park’s nearly 65-year-old swimming pool — the only outdoor public pool in Clark County — has been replaced by a newer pool, but remains a major feature in the 7.3-acre Crown Park.

In “Option 2,” the pool is gone, replaced by an interactive water feature and spacious grassy area.

Both options are a result of the city’s recent community survey, which asked residents to contribute their visions for Crown Park and Pool.

“There were no real surprises in the survey results … but we did get 1,400 responses and that is an outstanding number for any kind of a survey,” said Randy Curtis, chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

Most of the responses showed emotional ties to the park and pool, Curtis said.

“Some of the people have lived here for multiple generations. They told us, ‘I went to the pool when I was young, I take my kids to the pool,'” Curtis said. “So, keeping the pool was one underlying theme. But there were a number of responses saying people would love to have a year-round aquatic center.”

The quest for an aquatic center that people from Camas and Washougal could use all year — instead of or maybe even in addition to the Crown Park Pool that is only open 10 weeks a year — is something Curtis has been passionate about for a number of years and something that this 2016 Camas “Citizen of the Year” has seen a need for in both communities.

“We’ve seen in surveys that have been done (on a potential Camas community center), that one of the key things people want is an indoor aquatic center,” Curtis said.

Of course, at a cost of $15 million to $20 million, building an indoor, year-round aquatic center is a major undertaking for a city of Camas’ size. In Curtis’ mind, exploring a multi-district agreement — possibly among Camas, Washougal and the two cities’ school districts — would help get the indoor pool concept off the ground and make it more palatable for taxpayers.

Planning for the future at Crown Park and Pool

The thought of building an indoor pool for Camas-Washougal area residents and student swim teams resonates with many in the community. But, right now, the focus is on what the city of Camas must do to take Crown Park and its aging pool into the future.

The committee that is helping to develop the park’s 20-year master plan looked at costs for repairing or replacing the outdoor pool and discovered that the cost differences were less than they’d suspected.

“To repair the pool would cost about $2.2 million, but to rebuild it is about $2.3 million,” Curtis said. “So it’s a no-brainer. Why repair a (63-year-old) pool when you could replace it for almost the same (amount of money)?”

Although the outdoor pool, built by the Camas Lions Club and donated to the city in 1954, holds precious memories for many lifelong Camas residents — including several members of the Camas City Council who grew up in the area — Curtis says the age of the pool is becoming a problem.

“The age and condition of the pool has been a concern for a number of years,” Curtis said. “Over the last several years, the pool has had a few issues that, in some cases, cost quite a bit of money.”

This year, the city had to put about $75,000 into upgrading and repairing the pool before opening it to the public in June. And, while the city does collect revenues from pool users, the pool is not self-supporting. In fact, the city often supplements the pool using general funds. In 2016, for example, the pool brought in $104,010 but cost the city $162,164.

And the older the pool gets, the more problems it has and the more it costs to repair those problems, Curtis said.

“Every time there is a problem, we worry that it’s something that might close the pool down (for the season),” Curtis said.

Earlier this month, Curtis took a call regarding an issue with the pool’s mechanical system. That problem closed the pool for just one day, but Curtis said he just never knows how big the issue might be with a pool that is nearly 65 years old.

“We never know if it’s going to be minor or something so detrimental that we have to close the pool,” he explained. “And then there’s always the possibility, because of the age of the pool, that the health department could tell us there needs to be a major upgrade or repair.”

Putting aside emotional attachments to the outdoor pool, Curtis said, the question is “does a pool that is only open 10 weeks out of the year really meet the needs of the community?”

That is one of the questions being posed to residents right now. In February, the city of Camas approved a $66,700 contract to fund an audit of the the outdoor pool as well as the overall Crown Park and hired Portland-based landscape architects Greenworks PC to assess the condition of the pool and pool-related facilities, come up with potential replacement options and guide the city’s public outreach and citizen participation process. The survey that garnered 1,400 responses was part of this overall outreach plan. Now, the city hopes to collect feedback from residents on the two options Greenworks has pulled together for Crown Park and Pool — including the “Option 1” with its replacement pool and “Option 2” with its splash pad feature and open grass area.

The new survey, available online at www.ci.camas.wa.us, is due by Friday, Aug. 4. Included in survey are questions on preferences for pool replacement including options for replacing the existing pool with a new outdoor leisure pool, replacing the pool with a “large, interactive water feature” and removing the pool completely and replacing it with “open lawn.” The survey also poses questions regarding an amphitheater inside Crown Park and about whether residents prefer to see the park’s new picnic shelter located next to or away from the playground area.

Currently, Crown Park includes two tennis courts, the public outdoor swimming pool, a half-court basketball space, a picnic shelter with paved pad, a “tot lot” for younger visitors, a play structure for older children and a baseball diamond. To see the possibilities for future recreational amenities at Crown Park, visit www.ci.camas.wa.us and scroll down the main page to click on the “Crown Park Conceptual Design Alternatives” link.