Cities to form park district —

Cities to form park district

By Dean Baker; Feb. 5, 2007 © The Vancouver Columbian
CAMAS -- Plans are rolling to form a Camas-Washougal Metropolitan Park District and raise $20 million to $30 million to build a new community center to serve eastern Clark County.

The vote probably will come in the Aug. 26 primary election," Camas Mayor Paul Dennis said, "but no election date has been set.

"It'll be a good project," he said. "I think it'll get a lot of attention."

The proposed Camas-Washougal Community Center is to include a swimming pool, meeting rooms, classrooms, a senior center and possibly a gymnasium, Dennis said. It's to be built using environmentally sensitive techniques and materials with a combination of private, city, county and state funds. 

If approved by voters, the finished 50,000-square-foot center would be similar to Vancouver's 80,000-square-foot Firstenburg Community Center, Dennis said, except the Camas-Washougal center would have a larger aquatic area and more room for large community events.

Portland's Opsis Architecture firm designed the Firstenburg center and is at work on the east county center, as well. The plan is to employ so-called "green" Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building methods.

"We are also exploring a potential for multipurpose room and gym," Dennis said.

"We decided to look at what the costs are to put in the gym, and what would be the cost recovery of that, whether it would increase the financial viability or make it worse," the mayor said.

Backers are looking at user fees for cost recovery, he said, along with grants and a bond issue, he said. No decisions have been made, and it isn't clear yet whether the proposed bond issue will be for $28 million or less, perhaps as little as $15 million, depending on other funding sources, the mayor said.

In addition to the two cities, partners in the proposed project include Clark County, which contributed $550,000, the state's Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation, which pitched in $310,000, and the Friends of the Camas Community Center, which has raised $500,000, Dennis said.

The cities of Washougal and Camas have formed a partnership and asked for half a million dollars in the state's 2007 budget for design of the facility.

The governor has included this project in her proposed capital projects budget, which hasn't been approved yet.

The site is in east Camas, a half-mile west of Washougal. It is on the west side of Yale Street adjacent to Goot Park, north of the BNSF Railway and east of Camas' city-owned parcels called "the ponds" on the south bank of the Washougal River.

The center is designed to replace the 92-year-old Oak Park School Building that serves as the Camas Community Center at 1718 S.E. Seventh Ave.

The cities bought the 18-acre site in October. It includes 10 acres of city of Camas property for hiking, fishing, open space, wildlife, recreation and water well sites, and 8 adjacent acres jointly owned by Camas and Washougal for the community facility.

Aquatic center planned

If voters approve formation of a Camas-Washougal Metropolitan Park District, it would acquire and dispose of land, regulate and manage parks and facilities, hire staff and authorize taxes for the construction and operation of facilities within the district.

As currently envisioned, eligible voters would be those who live within the boundaries of the Camas and Washougal school districts.

The district board could be elected at the time of the vote or named later by the governing cities and Clark County. Commonly, five-member metro park district boards consist of elected representatives of participating districts. In this case, those are Camas, Washougal and the county.

"They should be elected officials, so as to be accountable," Dennis said. They might include two city council members from each city and a county commissioner. Or, a separate new board could be elected.

The proposed center would be a part of the Washougal River Greenway, to enhance the connection between park and recreation spaces.

It would include a community room that could seat 300 and be capable of being divided into three multipurpose spaces.

It also would include a caterer's kitchen, a senior space and lounge, gathering and educational areas, and computer access and table games.

Plans call for an aquatic center with a lap pool, locker rooms, leisure pool and spa with a total of 5,200 square feet of water surface.

Also, the center would have party and children's areas, exercise and dance wood floor studio and space for health screenings.

"We'll know more about this whole project specifically in late spring," Dennis said. "We'll need to keep on having community conversations, and Washougal will have that, too, before final decisions are made."

Dean Baker writes about Camas and Washougal. Reach him at 360-759-8009 or e-mail dean.baker@columbian.com.

For more information, visit www.friendscwc.com

Update

* Previously: In October, the cities of Camas and Washougal bought an 8-acre site for a 50,000-square-foot Camas-Washougal Community Center. Camas purchased 10 adjacent acres for open space, a park and water well sites.

* What's new: Planning continues for a metropolitan park district.

* What's next: A public vote is eyed for Aug. 26 or Nov. 6 to form a Camas-Washougal Metropolitan Park District and decide on a bond to build a $20 million to $30 million community center.

© The Columbian
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