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May 20, 2022

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Project would bring trail full circle around Lacamas Lake

Conservation plan aims to protect land in Camas where development is expected to soon flourish

By , Columbian Staff Writer
Published:
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Lacamas Lake, as seen from the north in this 2016 aerial photo.
Lacamas Lake, as seen from the north in this 2016 aerial photo. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — A conservation project in Camas could turn Lacamas Lake into a regional recreation hot spot by finally connecting a trail around the entire lake.

“It’s this type of thinking that went into creating Forest Park,” Dan Roix, conservation director with Columbia Land Trust. “It’s something that will be valued and cherished for generations the come.”

The city is working with Clark County, Columbia Land Trust and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office on a project to conserve around 100 acres of land north of the lake, where development is expected to take off soon. The city is in the middle of a yearlong project adding 4.5 miles of sewer pipeline to the North Shore area, which is expected to attract more than 1,000 new residences, along with areas set aside for industrial businesses and a new school.

“In a city like Camas, that is rapidly growing, having the forethought to conserve land is a big deal,” Roix said. “Once it’s fully developed, you can’t go back and fill those spots in. The timing is critical.”

The project is one of 12 receiving funding as part of the county’s Legacy Lands program, in which the county will pay $19.7 million for land acquisition. That money comes from the county’s Conservation Futures, which levies a 4.62-cent tax per thousand dollars of assessed property value.

The Camas project is expected to cost $4.8 million, with $2.58 million in grants coming from the Legacy Lands Program. The city will use $1.5 million of funds earmarked to conserve and protect green space, and $700,000 will come from donated land.

Camas City Administrator Pete Capell said it was important to set some land aside before development takes off in North Shore.

“We wanted to make sure we preserve as much of the forested areas and shoreline areas to maintain that view from the south side that people have enjoyed for many years,” he said. “The other thing that has been important to us is the trail system. This will build the trail system out, so it will loop around the lake to give people access to the open space and exercise opportunities, and the ability to go out and enjoy the environment.”

The city has identified property owners along the area north of the lake and has contacted them to discuss possible acquisitions. The property owners are a mix of private families and organizations, such as the Camas-Washougal Wildlife League.

If the city can acquire enough of the land it wants, the plan is to build a trail that will complete a loop around Lacamas Lake, making it the first time residents have a path fully around the lake without having to walk on or cross a street.

Roix said the trail could total around 7 miles, and the completed loop could serve as a full circle of sorts for the land trust, which formed 27 years ago when volunteers tried to preserve different land near Lacamas Lake.

To complete the trail, the city would close Northeast Leadbetter Road at the boat dock and shooting range, which is owned by the wildlife league.

Leadbetter will be turned into a bike and pedestrian trail along the water, while there will be additional parking at the shooting range, which will be closed and used for something else. Capell said the site could act as a trailhead with restrooms, but nothing has been decided. He also said the wildlife league is expected to donate the land to the city, and the city will have to cover cleanup costs for the land.

The boat launch there would remain, and Capell said the city has plans to add a non-motorized boat launch farther north. The trail plans call for a pedestrian bridge over Lacamas Creek near Northeast Goodwin Road, Capell said.

“(This project) will expand the Lacamas Lake Corridor to nearly 975 acres of publicly-owned land surrounding Lacamas Lake, guaranteeing access, recreation and conservation for generations,” Jerry Acheson, the city’s parks and recreation director, wrote in an email.

Capell said conservation is something residents in the city want.

“It’s a strong desire of the community to keep Camas green,” he said. “We’re going to acquire and put conservation covenants on the land. It can’t be logged or have homes or businesses built. There’s other land available for that. If we can preserve a lot of the quality open space and preserve it forever, that will be a great amenity to the region, not just Camas.”

Columbian Staff Writer

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