Making space for nature in Camas

City, county work to protect 100 acres of natural space near Lacamas Lake

Two months after the Board of County Councilors approved $7 million worth of land conservation projects, including a $4.8 million Camas effort to preserve 100 acres near the northern edges of Lacamas Lake, local leaders are working with landowners to secure natural space and forest land before it can be developed — and pave the way for a planned multi-use trail system that will someday encircle the lake.

“We are actively trying to secure property,” Camas City Administrator Pete Capell said this week. “Some of the talks are moving along quicker than others.”

Most of the areas marked for conservation run along northeast and southeast Leadbetter roads, northeast of Lacamas Lake. The conservation project will increase the 880-acre Lacamas Corridor park and greenway system by about 100 acres and protect the land from future development.

The land buys are part of the county’s 33-year-old Legacy Lands program, which protects natural Clark County land that is valued for its habitat, scenic corridors and low-impact recreation possibilities.

The city’s parks and recreation department will manage and maintain the future Lacamas Lake North Corridor trail system and parks land. Eventually, city leaders hope to add amenities to the area such as picnic facilities, trailheads, water access sites, viewpoints, fishing piers, children’s play areas and concessions for kayakers, canoers and bicyclists.

Parks and Recreation Manager Jerry Acheson said in a city press release regarding the Board of County Councilors approval of the $7 million countywide conservation project, that the Camas project aligns with other area parks and open space plans, including the Lacamas Corridor Master Plan and the Portland-Vancouver Bi-State Regional Trail System Plan.

“All around Clark County, residents and visitors will have the ability to tap into nature,” Acheson said. “We’re very excited to extend those options while protecting the beauty of Camas.”

Eventually, the city will terminate Leadbetter Road near the Camas Washougal Wildlife League’s shooting range, where the road switches from Northeast Leadbetter to Southeast Leadbetter, and use the existing road as part of the trail system that will take hikers on a complete loop around Lacamas Lake.

The city already owns some of the property marked for conservation, including 48 acres Camas purchased from Georgia-Pacific in 2008, but the remaining land belongs to private property owners, Clark County and the Camas Washougal Wildlife League.

Capell said city staff are closing in on an agreement with the Wildlife League that would essentially gift the property to the city in exchange for the cost of cleaning up the land polluted by lead from the shooting range.

“The cost of the clean up is essentially the same as purchasing the property … because of the lead,” Capell said.

The city also is in talks with several private owners, including the CJ Dens Land Co., Edward Buma and the Mills Family, LLC, to secure portions of their natural, forested land near Lacamas Lake.

Capell said there is no exact timeline for when Camas residents might see that final Lacamas Lake trail system, but estimated that it will take city leaders two to three years to finalize the land acquisitions and maybe another two years to actually build the trail system. Because it will cross wetlands and creeks, the trail system will require boardwalks, pedestrian bridges and proper environmental permits — all of which take time. The city estimates that it will cost about $4.8 million to purchase the land. The county’s $2.58 million Legacy Lands grant will cover about 70 percent of the cost. The city is matching with $1.5 million and expects to have $700,000 in donated land.

“We are extremely lucky to live in a community where people come together for the good of one another — and our environment,” Acheson said.

To learn more about the Legacy Lands program and the county’s $7 million bonds, which will purchase 10 Legacy Lands sites, including the Lacamas Lake North site in Camas, visit www.clark.wa.gov/public-works/legacy-lands-program.