Camas carving out community center

City to hold public meeting June 18 to discuss ‘first phase’ amenities

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A rendering of what a joint Camas-Washougal community center might include. In April, the Camas-Washougal Community Center Advisory Committee came up with a four-phase option, which would begin with the recreation pool, locker rooms, administration area and a multi-purpose room and work up to the image pictured here. (Contributed illustration by Opsis Architects, courtesy of city of Camas)

Camas officials are moving forward with plans to build a Camas-centric community center and will likely bring the issue to voters in the November general election.

But first, Camas City Administrator Pete Capell told Camas City Council members and Mayor Shannon Turk on Monday, city staff will poll citizens to see which amenities Camas residents most want to see in the theoretical community center’s first phase.

“We have two teams working on the community center and sports complex,” Capell told city councilors at their Monday evening workshop. “We will hold a community meeting on June 18 … to ask people what programs they think are most important.”

Preliminary designs call for building a leisure swimming pool, a competitive pool and exercise/activity rooms in the first phase of the community center, then add a two-court gymnasium and community rooms in the second phase.

“We assume that is what the community will tell us (they want),” Capell said.

However, city officials want to gauge which programs are the most important to community members. The city is in the process of developing a website that will allow Camas residents to provide feedback on the community center via an online survey, and will soon send mailers to all Camas residents advertising the community meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., June 18 at Lacamas Lake Lodge, 227 N.W. Lake Road, Camas.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Capell said Monday. “We will ask people on June 18, ‘What elements do you think should be in the first phase to go to voters?'”

City could site community center near Lacamas Lake

City leaders discussed a few possible community center sites in the past, but seem set on a 6.3-acre parcel known as “the Buhman property,” which is located on the south side of Lake Road, close to Lacamas Lake and Camas’ Heritage Park.

City leaders also hope to build multi-use sports turf fields throughout Camas, possibly at Forest Home Park, Prune Hill Sports Park and Dorothy Fox Park.

“I love that concept,” Turk said Monday. “They (would be) sprinkled throughout our town so that everybody gets the benefit of these sports fields.”

Camas City Councilman Don Chaney said he was excited about bringing a community center bond to voters in November and said the idea of the center, sports fields and swimming facilities was a chance for government leaders to “do more than just sustain life … to improve the quality of life” for Camas residents.

Camas goes solo months after committee forms to discuss regional community center

This is not the first time Camas leaders have wanted to bring a community center bond to voters — the city commissioned community center studies in 2001, 2007 and 2012, but this latest push for a Camas-based community center came only eight months after a joint Camas-Washougal advisory committee formed to discuss building a regional community center and swimming pool.

The joint advisory group, which met for the first time in August 2018, included Camas and Washougal council members as well as representatives from the Port of Camas-Washougal and both school districts.

Committee members seemed to disagree about the “where” of the project.

“The sticking point is location,” Camas City Councilwoman Deanna Rusch said at an April city council meeting. “My sense of this — and I don’t mean this negatively — is that the Washougal (City) Council and representatives are really attached to the property on ‘C’ Street, and I don’t know how we would sell that property to many of our constituents, especially in west (Camas).”

Washougal City Councilwoman Michelle Wagner, who sat on the joint community center advisory committee, told the Post-Record in late April she was surprised by Camas officials’ push to go it alone.

“In fact, I believe I briefed our council in late March that I was very hopeful after the last joint committee meeting in early March that the two cities were progressing on commonality of scope (and) costs as well as an understanding on location that would appeal to both resident groups,” Wagner said.

She added that Washougal doesn’t have the resources to build its own “full-up Firstenburg type facility,” referring to a Vancouver community center that includes swimming facilities, and that the Camas councilors’ decision to build a Camas-only center would “reframe” Washougal leaders’ discussions about what they might be able to provide in the way of community center facilities.

“I wish Camas the best of luck in securing the capital needed for their facility,” Wagner said, adding that Washougal leaders looked forward to partnering with Camas on future ventures despite the community center letdown. “A facility for youth swim lessons, recreation and senior fitness is desperately needed in our communities.”

Editor’s Note: This story was edited to reflect the fact that the city of Camas already owns the land near Lacamas Lake city leaders are considering for the community center. City staff had been in conversations about purchasing land for future sports fields, but the 2019 bond proposition does not include those future fields or land purchase in its $78 million total.