Camas OKs full Crown Park remodel

Construction on $6.3M park project expected to begin in spring of 2024

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Scout Hall in Camas' Crown Park is pictured May 12, 2022. The park, known as Camas' "outdoor living room," is slated for a remodel that includes an inclusive playground, interactive splash pad and a restroom. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

The majority of the Camas City Council said this week that they support moving forward with renovations for all of Crown Park instead of taking a piecemeal approach or halting the master planning project altogether.

“This has been a challenging project,” Councilman Don Chaney said during the Council’s workshop on Monday, Dec. 4. “In 2018, I remember when the consultant came out and made a presentation. From that point forward, we built expectations. We went through COVID, through difficult economic times, but we have funding for it now. … And we’ll work hard to let our public know we’re delivering.”

Camas Parks and Recreation Director Trang Lam approached the Council Monday to discuss pre-ordering items for Crown Park as well as the South Lacamas Creek trailhead — both of which received $500,000 grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) earlier this year — and to get Council feedback on three options for moving forward with the $6.3 million Crown Park master plan renovations that have already gone through nearly six years’ worth of planning and design work.

The Council approved a Crown Park master plan in 2018. At that time, Lam reminded the Council this week, the cost estimate for the entire park renovation — which includes an interactive splash pad, inclusive playground, new restroom, improved trails and more — was $6.2 million. Four years later, when the City had completed 30% of the design work, that estimate had bumped up to $7.9 million.

“We said, ‘Let us do more work … we’re going to try to stay within budget and get all the elements in the master plan,” Lam said Monday, adding that her team has been able to whittle down costs and will “try to stick to $6.3 million” for a renovation that includes the entire park and all of the elements included in the original master plan approved by city officials in 2018.

The project will be funded by the $500,000 state RCO grant and $3 million from a general obligation bond earmarked for parks use that Council approved in 2022. The remainder will come from the city’s real estate excise tax (REET) and park impact fees paid by developers to help fund new amenities to serve new residents. None of the Crown Park funding will come from the City’s general fund, Lam said.

“We are using parks-specific funding, the grant … and the bond,” Lam reminded Council members this week. “Last year, Council approved the (general obligation bond) and there is specific language in there that directs a percentage (of the bond proceeds) to Crown Park.”

On Monday, Lam presented Council with three options for moving forward:

Option 1 would allow the City to evaluate bids for the entire project and meet the requirements of the state grant, which stipulates that Camas must complete certain elements, including the new restroom, the inclusive playground and the $530,000 splash pad, by Oct. 31, 2025.

Option 2 would go out for bid on just the elements included in the RCO grant area and could indefinitely postpone the remainder of the Crown Park renovations included in the master plan.

Option 3 would not move forward with the Crown Park improvements and the City would have to return the $500,000 RCO grant, possibly jeopardizing Camas’ chances of securing future RCO grants.

Though two Council members — Leslie Lewallen and Jennifer Senescu — said they would prefer Option 2, the rest of the Council favored Option 1.

“Thank you for hearing Council and our financial concerns,” Councilwoman Bonnie Carter told Lam on Monday, adding that she believes the Council has a duty to “complete its promise to people” when it comes to renovating the City’s most historic park.

“The funding is there and has been secured. I think we need to go forward and deliver what the citizens asked us to do,” Carter said.

Chaney, who is retiring from the Council at the end of this month, agreed.

“I support Option 1, and I’m (hoping) that, if in fact new things happen to show up, that the new Council will find creative ways to fund those things,” Chaney said.

Senescu, who was appointed to the Council earlier this year and recently won her bid for a four-year term, said she favored Option 2, but had “misgivings” about the splash pad element, which garnered high marks in community surveys during the Crown Park master plan process as well as the more recent Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan outreach that gathered input from more than 1,000 community members.

“I believe the splash pad was something the public didn’t necessarily want but they couldn’t have a pool,” Senescu said Monday. “I think it’s a lot of money … and I think the splash pad will contribute to the homeless problem. I have misgivings about the splash pad.”

In the end, however, the majority of the Council agreed on Option 1.

“I see four for Option 1,” Camas Mayor Steve Hogan noted. “So we are going to move ahead with Option 1.”

Lam has said she expects to go out for bid in January 2024. If all goes according to plan, construction on Crown Park would begin in the spring of 2024, and the City would move the park’s popular events — including the annual Easter egg hunt and Movies in the Park — to other Camas locations during the construction period.

The Council will consider Lam’s request to purchase items for Crown Park and the South Lacamas Creek trailhead renovations, including $533,295 in playground equipment, nearly $1 million for restrooms ($623,448 for the Crown Park bathroom and $356,738 for the South Lacamas Creek bathroom), $36,558 for nature play equipment and $15,750 for log furniture for Crown Park, during the consent agenda portion of the Council’s regular meeting Monday, Dec. 18.