Camas community celebrates park’s opening

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

For more than a generation, Camas officials worked to make the city’s Fallen Leaf Lake and adjacent lands an area all of the city’s residents could enjoy.

On Tuesday afternoon, they announced the city’s purchase of 55 acres of land, which ensures the Fallen Leaf Lake Park’s water and trails will be open to the next generation.

Camas purchased the 55 acres of shoreline, wetlands and forest, plus the 20-acre Fallen Leaf Lake, for $2.05 million, using city, county, state and federal dollars. The project site had for decades served as a private company park, most recently owned by Georgia Pacific/Koch Industries.

Camas officials and residents joined Tuesday for a ceremony near Fallen Leaf Lake’s banks to celebrate the 22-year-old project’s completion. The project was officially completed in April.

“What really touches me is this beautiful place will be enjoyed by the next generation,” Camas City Administrator Lloyd Halverson said after the ceremony’s conclusion.

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program contributed $1 million to the project. The National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund donated $500,000. Another $380,000 came from Clark County’s Conservation Futures Fund. Camas contributed $170,000.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has been an ardent supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, briefly spoke at the event.

“It’s a real gift to the people who will follow in your tracks,” Murray said, noting the state’s earliest settlers recognized the importance of the area’s natural resources.

Outdoor recreation is just as important for a Camas resident as a U.S. senator, Murray noted.

“Like many people here, I know how important it is to escape the hectic pace of life we have,” she said.

Halverson attributed the project’s completion to vision, teamwork and persistence among local and state leaders. Murray’s support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund also played an indirect-but-important role in making the project a reality. He noted the federal dollars Camas received came from a competitive process, not an earmark.

Former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen also expressed joy at the project’s conclusion.

“I was so worried we were so focused on developing our industrial park that we would forget the soft side of what makes this community special,” said Henriksen, who served as mayor from 1983 to 1992. “We are blessed with parks and recreation opportunities.”

Camas residents praised Halverson and other leaders for keeping the park open rather than allowing it to become land for commercial real estate.

Ken Hadley of Camas called the purchase of the 55 acres a “huge asset” to the city. He has participated in company picnics and gatherings for local volunteer firefighters at the area for years, he said.

“To know it’s going to remain available through the city is a good thing,” said Hadley, who has lived in Camas since 1963.

Hadley turned toward the lake and added, “You can see on a day like today what a beautiful setting it is.”

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.