Explaining city’s ‘difficult decision’ on Crown Park pool closure, demo

Pete Capell

By Peter Capell, Guest Columnist

The difficult decision has been made to not open Crown Park Pool this summer, and, furthermore, to remove the structure this year. We would like to give you the background that led to this outcome and to address questions we have received. It is our sincerest hope to share the many reasons the course we are taking has been chosen.

The pool was built in 1954 by the Lions Club and donated to the city. Over its lifetime, numerous repairs have been made to keep the pool operational and safe. In 2000, $275,000 was invested in extensive pool repairs. However, the pool, being 64 years old, continues to be laden with problems, with new issues arising every year and past complications resurfacing.

In the fall of 2017, Clark County Health Department inspected the pool and stated major requirements for reopening, including replacement of mechanical equipment and substantial repairs to the facilities. Estimates were made at over $300,000 for very basic, temporary repairs, and over $2 million for more significant renovations with uncertain longevity. A replacement pool in the same location was estimated at over $3.5 million.

After reviewing these options, it was determined that the high cost of repairing a still-deteriorating pool used only 10 weeks a year, or fully replacing it, was too great. Notably, even if the city had sought to make minimal changes, the work could not have been completed by the summer of 2018. With the decision to close the pool, for safety reasons, we are required to decommission it within 12 months. As a result, it will be removed in the near future.

In order to move forward with a plan, in 2017 leaders looked to four community surveys: two online surveys and one in-person opportunity hosted at Camas Days, plus a third-party general survey about services, including one question gauging interest in other recreational amenities and support for new taxes to make new amenities a reality. The surveys resulted in thousands of responses. Although many citizens favored retaining Camas Pool in some fashion, a large number also backed a spray-and-splash pad and/or a year-round aquatics center. Ultimately, the volunteer-based Parks and Recreation Commission recommended that City Council move forward with the splash pad option instead of a refurbished or new pool at Crown Park, in addition to an indoor community/aquatics facility elsewhere.

This year, we have extended our outreach again, inviting citizens to lend their voices to public meetings and submit their feedback by traditional mail or email. Every comment has been reviewed by leaders to understand our citizens’ desires, and also to determine what information could be more clearly relayed to the community.

The option of an indoor community/aquatics facility is exciting because our neighbors in the city of Washougal and the Port of Camas-Washougal also are interested. While this type of facility would be a greater investment – above $25 million – benefits would likely include year-round use, community rooms and other amenities, with costs that could be shared among agencies. As this idea has only just begun to take shape, we will keep the public informed of its progress as well as opportunities for taking part.

Although an indoor community/aquatics facility would not be able to reside in Crown Park due to limitations in parking, other types of facilities could. As such, we are now pursuing recommendations to construct an interactive water feature, pathways and furnishings, a restroom, a picnic shelter, a playground, a sport court, an amphitheater and landscaping improvements. We are currently in the process of fine-tuning the specific amenities to be offered, with your input, and determining how to fund them. At the same time, we are pursuing other opportunities for community swimming and swim lessons, until we have a community pool again.

While we will be without a pool for several years, in the long term, we will have a major restoration to Crown Park and, with hope, a year-round indoor community/aquatics facility that will serve a large portion of the community for future generations.

Thank you for being engaged in your community! We welcome you to reach out to us through email at comments@cityofcamas.us; via mail at 616 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas, WA 98607; or in person, by attending an upcoming meeting, listed at www.cityofcamas.us.

Peter Capell is the city administrator for the city of Camas. He can be reached via email at pcapell@cityofcamas.us.