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Historic Camas pool could be saved

Lacamas Athletic Club is putting together a proposal to buy the pool, which was slated to be demolished by the city to make way for a public splash pad

CAMAS — Stuck in the middle of the season’s first major heat wave, Camas residents have had one less option to cool off this Summer. Earlier this year the city made the decision not to open the pool at Crown Park for the 2018 season.

Someone left these flowers recently on the locked gate to the Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park after the city decided to close it. Photo by Chris Brown
Someone left these flowers recently on the locked gate to the Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park after the city decided to close it. Photo by Chris Brown

Late last year a consultant hired by Camas notified city council that the pool, which was built in 1954, was dying. The city has spent tens of thousands of dollars in recent years, trying to eke the historic public watering hole along. But last year the Health Department said the city would need to spend at least $418,000 just to bring the pool up to code, and even if they’d decided to do that, it would have meant closing the pool for the season. Ultimately, their consultant said a full renovation of the pool could cost up to $1.5 million, and a brand new pool likely would have been around the same price.

Jerry Acheson, the city’s Parks & Recreation manager, said in an email that running the pool cost Camas residents just under $175,000, while bringing in $86,360 last season. That means losses were slightly less than $89,000.

Ultimately the city came up with two options for replacing the pool, including a $10.5 million renovation that would have included a smaller outdoor pool, as well as a new playground, multi-use sports court, and restrooms. The other plan was a $5.1 million outdoor water feature, amphitheater, playground, and picnic area. After hearing public feedback, the city chose to move ahead with the less expensive alternative.

The seasonal cover over this outdoor pool at Lacamas Athletic Club is one idea of how the pool at Crown Park could be operated year-round. Photo by Chris Brown
The seasonal cover over this outdoor pool at Lacamas Athletic Club is one idea of how the pool at Crown Park could be operated year-round. Photo by Chris Brown

Of course the demise of the pool sparked plenty of pushback from the community, including a fundraiser by some local kids. A memorial to the pool continues to grow outside the main entrance. But it seemed as if the fate of the 64-year old pool had been sealed.

Enter Lacamas Athletic Club. The club’s general manager, Nathan Murphy, tells ClarkCountyToday.com that they’ve been looking to expand. After hearing the dismay from a lot of their members about the loss of the pool, their owner decided to approach the city to see if they might be able to reach an agreement.

Nathan Murphy is the general manager at Lacamas Athletic Club in Camas. Photo by Chris Brown
Nathan Murphy is the general manager at Lacamas Athletic Club in Camas. Photo by Chris Brown

“This is after we saw the little kid’s ‘no pool pool party’,” says Murphy. “I’m like, there’s a big demand, and I’ve seen the social media, I’ve seen it… you know we have about 35-hundred members, and how many people just came in and were like ‘hey, can you believe that pool is closing?'”

Murphy says the city contracted Lacamas Athletic Club to operate the pool during the 2014 season, and they were able to do so at a profit.

“If anything we’re surprised they didn’t come offer us to run it again, versus them demolishing it and doing whatever they’re going to do with it,” says Murphy.

The club is still working to finalize its proposal, but Murphy says his observations of the pool’s condition leads him to believe they could get it back up and operational at a price far below what the city has estimated.

“It needs a whole new filtration system for the pool there,” Murphy says. “It’s very dated, and it needs a new, modern version of that. The building itself is standing, it looks like it just needs more cosmetic things … And the pool itself is aged, but we think it’s salvageable.”

But what if the pool isn’t salvageable, and needs to be completely replaced?

“We would still be interested in it,” says Murphy. “From the standpoint of, we ran the pool for six months and made profit off of it, and that was in the current state. So if we can build a new facility that could accommodate more, or extend the seasons by having maybe a retractable cover over it, that would be a no-brainer for us. We’re looking to expand either way, and so this is just one of those avenues for us to expand.”

The now-empty lifeguard chair, as seen through the chain link fence surrounding the empty and shuttered Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park. Photo by Chris Brown
The now-empty lifeguard chair, as seen through the chain link fence surrounding the empty and shuttered Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park. Photo by Chris Brown

Murphy showed us their outdoor pool at the Lacamas Athletic Club, which features a roof that can be opened, and walls that can be removed, saying that’s what they’re thinking would go over the Crown Park Pool. That would allow them to potentially run the pool year-round, rather than just during the Summer. The existing tennis courts would likely give way to some additional parking and other facilities.

At this point the club is still meeting with the city, working on a full proposal for the site. Without tipping their hand, Acheson says “nothing is off the table” at this time. Their goal is to come up with a final recommendation for the Crown Park Master Plan by this Fall, in time to start whatever construction needs to be done next year. Either way, that means it’s likely there won’t be any pool (or splash pad) there for next Summer either.

A public memorial marks the now-closed entrance to the Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park. Photo by Chris Brown
A public memorial marks the now-closed entrance to the Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park. Photo by Chris Brown

As for what the public actually wants, it’s unclear. There’s a lot of sentimental value tied up in the old Camas Municipal Pool, but it did cost money to use, as would a pool run by Lacamas Athletic Club. On the other hand, it would likely be open year-round. A splash pad or water feature would likely be free for the public to use, but only available part of the year.

 

Click to go to poll.
Click to go to poll.

In a poll on the Clark County Today Facebook page (admittedly highly unscientific), respondents were pretty evenly split. Out of 207 replies so far, 51 percent would go with the splash pad option.

 

Of course the city will have to consider the cost. Tearing down the pool and going with a water feature would likely cost over $5 million. The smarter financial move might be selling the property and letting Lacamas Athletic Club take over, but then they’d lose public control in a popular park for much of Camas.

“We’ve had a lot of support and excitement,” says Murphy. “I guess we didn’t know what to expect, but a lot of our member base is pretty excited, and in our corner.”

Signs mourning the loss of the Camas Municipal Pool mark the locked front doors. Photo by Chris Brown
Signs mourning the loss of the Camas Municipal Pool mark the locked front doors. Photo by Chris Brown
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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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