Camas continues transition

City strives to keep improving livability, business base

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
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Camas

Population: 20,020

Must see: Washougal River Greenway Trail, downtown Camas, Lacamas Lake.

Website: http://www.ci.camas.wa.us

The former mill town on the eastern side of Clark County has done pretty well for itself in the last decade.

The population has grown by about 8,000 people in that time. Feeding into that growth is a thriving business community.

Like many cities in the Pacific Northwest that were once defined by the presence of the logging industry, Camas has transitioned into being a major player in the so-called silicon forest. Since 1996, when Linear Technology moved to town, manufacturing silicon wafers has been one of the city’s cottage industries.

Growth has been slow-going in recent years following the recession, however. Plans to expand Linear Technology’s Camas plant have been delayed after a slowdown in sales. There has also been talk about the future of WaferTech, another silicon wafer manufacturer in town. Mayor Scott Higgins has said he was confident the company would stay put.

Other companies that have migrated to the city include Fisher Investments, which moved to Camas in 2011.

Although eager to continue developing both a business and population base, Camas has hit a few snags. For one, there have been concerns that the Bonneville Power Administration could extend power lines across the Columbia River through newly annexed parcels in the northern portions of the city.

The power lines are intended as a way to support growing energy demands across the region. But city officials, wanting to keep growth on track, have been concerned that the lines would interfere with their plans. There were other options BPA presented, but the one that called for lines through the newly annexed part of town was a top concern for the city.

Toward the end of last year, the city received an idea about the direction the BPA would go.

In November 2012, the BPA released a “preferred route” for the power lines. Under that route, the power lines would still cross over the Columbia River at Camas, but they would avoid the city’s newly annexed land.

At the time, Higgins called the route a “mixed bag” for the city. Earlier in the year, the Camas City Council asked BPA to consider pushing the line outside of the city limits, or look at an underground possibility.

Higgins continues to say that an underground option would be preferable for the city.

On top of that, the city has also invested in its open spaces in recent years. In 2011, the city purchased 55 acres of shoreline, wetlands and forest, in addition to the 20-acre Fallen Leaf Lake. It cost the city $2.05 million, which came from a combination of city, county, state and federal dollars.

The prior year Camas dedicated the $3.7 million Washougal River Greenway Trail. The 125-acre park was 20 years in the making and included a 1.1-mile paved trail and 370-foot steel-trussed pedestrian bridge.

With all of that, Camas is characterized by plenty of civic pride. And, from time to time, the national media will take notice. CNN Money called Camas one of the best places to retire in multiple years.

The city has some of the lowest crime statistics in Clark County.