Camas clears way for pool demolition

Lacamas Athletic Club still interested in leasing city land, building new pool

City officials are moving ahead with plans to demolish the Camas Municipal Pool in Crown Park, pictured here after a fresh paint job in 2017, and may replace it with a splash pad.

Plans to replace the county’s only public, outdoor swimming pool with an interactive splash pad moved forward this week, after the city of Camas determined a proposal to demolish the historic Camas Municipal Pool does not pose any significant adverse environmental impacts.

Camas Parks and Recreation Manager Jerry Acheson submitted the application for a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) determination, and said the demolition would remove the swimming pool, wading pool, a 4,000-square-foot office/locker room building and surrounding concrete, but would not impact the nearby tennis courts or Scout Hall, a small Crown Park building used for community events.

The city will not act on the SEPA determination of non-significance until after a 14-day comment and appeal period, which ends Oct. 4.

The determination paves the way for the city to demolish the 68-year-old public swimming pool before the end of 2018.

City leaders in Camas decided in late 2017 to close the community pool, which they said was costing taxpayers several thousand dollars each year.

In November 2017, Camas City Council members heard from consultant Ben Johnson, with Greenworks, PC, that the pool was “dying.”

“Almost everything at the pool is failing,” Johnson told the council members, adding that a report from the state’s Department of Public Health showed the city would need to invest about $400,000 to reopen the problematic pool for the 2018 summer season.

Months before Johnson’s presentation, Randy Curtis, chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, said the age and condition of the Crown Park pool have concerned city leaders for a while. He added the pool has cost the city more money in recent years.

Camas spent about $75,000 to upgrade and repair the pool before it could open to the public in June 2017.

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 instance, the pool brought in $104,010 but cost the city $162,164.

The older the pool gets, Curtis told The Post-Record in July 2017, the more problems it has, and the more it costs to repair those problems.

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

After city leaders made their final decision to close the pool, they announced that state law required them to demolish the structure within a certain time frame. The pool was slated to be demolished this fall, before the end of 2018.

In July, owners of the Lacamas Athletic Club in Camas made a last-minute effort to save the historic pool.

“We know the pool is aging and could need a full replacement down the road. We are working out all costs associated with renovating and operating the pool. Once we have those costs, we will submit the proposal,” Nathan Murphy, general manager of the Camas-based Lacamas Athletic Club, told The Post-Record in early July.

Murphy said Sept. 13, Lacamas Athletic Club had submitted its proposal Aug. 2, but had not heard back from anyone at the city at that point.

Later, Murphy received a response from the city stating: “We have a prior obligation to our partners to jointly work together to study the feasibility of developing a community center in the Camas-Washougal area. Once that process has reached a conclusion, we will have more information to address your proposal.”

Murphy said the athletic club’s research determined the state’s health department would not allow Lacamas to reopen the current pool.

“Our proposal was to enter into a long-term lease on the land — a sale of public land is not on the table — and build a new, modern pool in the existing pool’s place,” Murphy said Tuesday.

The city has already done extensive work on proposals to revamp Crown Park and install a water feature at the park to replace the swimming pool. The draft Crown Park master plan can be viewed at cityofcamas.us/parkshome/68-parkscat/819-parksprojects.

The city of Camas will publish the SEPA determination Thursday, Sept. 20, and accept comments and appeals related to the SEPA decision through 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4. Comments may be emailed to communitydevelopment@cityofcamas.us. Appeal requests of the SEPA findings must be submitted to the Camas Community Development Department at 616 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas.