Camas to address bridge jumpers near Lacamas Park

City councilors ask Parks Commission to weigh in

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Youth gather on the Lacamas Park Trail pedestrian bridge in August 2019, days before a 14-year-old Vancouver boy drowned in the stretch of water below. (Post-Record file photo)

Camas city leaders will soon address the issue of frequent bridge-jumping off of the Lacamas Park Trail pedestrian bridge into the lake water below.

Citizens, as well as at least one Council member, have voiced concerns about mostly young people jumping off the pedestrian bridge into a stretch of water that connects Lacamas and Round lakes.

In August 2019, a 14-year-old Vancouver boy, Anthony T. Huynh, drowned after jumping from the bridge with a group of friends.

“The bridge itself is fairly new,” Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey told Council members at their Aug. 3 workshop meeting. “After construction, it was discovered by kids to be a kind of platform to jump off of.”

As far as water-based incidences and emergency responses, Lackey said the city’s first responders typically get more calls for accidents at the area near Round Lake known as the “Potholes.”

Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall and city attorney Shawn MacPherson listed four possible options for addressing the bridge jumping at the Council’s remote workshop Monday evening.

The first option, they said, is to maintain the status quo. The city has no ordinance addressing jumping from the bridge, so maintaining status quo would mean the city does nothing to try to prevent people from using the pedestrian bridge as a jumping platform.

The second option discussed Monday is to post general warning signs at a cost of $50 per sign. Wall said the Washington Cities Insurance Authority does not recommend this option, as “it may create a duty or perception of enforcement that might not otherwise exist and would likely generate calls to the police department and others with complaints or requests for enforcement.”

Wall said that option, however, could be implemented within one week, if city leaders choose to post warning signs.

A third option mentioned Monday would install fencing or some other type of barrier along the pedestrian bridge and remove the existing sidewalk on the Northeast Everett Street bridge to prevent the jumpers from simply switching over to that nearby platform. Wall said that option would likely cost about $50,000 and could be completed by late 2020 or early 2021.

Wall and MacPherson brought up a fourth option Monday: to hire a part-time “bridge monitor” during warmer months for a recommended six hours a day on weekdays and eight hours a day on weekends, Memorial Day through Labor Day, at a cost of approximately $10,000 a year.

“Each option has its pros and cons,” Wall told Council members.

Council members discussed the options, with many agreeing they would like to hear not just from more citizens but from the city’s Parks Commission before agreeing to any of the four options presented Monday.

“I know we’re kind of frustrated because this has been going on for a while,” said Councilman Don Chaney, “But I’d be interested in what the Parks Department has to say.”

Councilwoman Ellen Burton, who had asked city staff to look into the bridge jumpers and possible solutions, agreed that she would like to ask the Parks Commission to come up with a recommendation for Council.

“I know the police chief has concerns about enforcement,” Burton said Monday. “We have a small police force, so we would want to make sure we have an ordinance to deal with that. I do think we need to do something about this, and I agree with (Councilman) Chaney. I would ask the Parks Commission to take a look at this — they know the community — and come back to us with a recommendation.”

Councilors Bonnie Carter and Greg Anderson agreed that it made sense to send the issue to the Parks Commission.

Anderson said he also would want to give the Parks Commission the ability to go beyond the four options brought up Monday evening.

“Give them the ability to think outside the box. Let them get creative,” Anderson said.

MacPherson pointed out that the Parks Commission has not met since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, so it may take some time for this issue to flow through the Commission and make its way back to Council.