In Our Vew: Camas Plan Good News

Conserving land along Lacamas Lake’s north shore a move worth celebrating

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Sometimes with development comes more open space for the public to enjoy.

That seemingly contradictory statement can be seen playing out at The Waterfront Vancouver, where development of offices, apartments and retail buildings will be fronted by a waterfront park and a dramatic public pier that may well become the city’s signature piece.

So it was noteworthy news this month when officials announced a plan to conserve land along the north shore of Lacamas Lake and build a footpath that would connect to an existing 3.5-mile gravel trail on the south side of the lake. The project is being organized by the city of Camas, Clark County, the Columbia Land Trust and the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

As anyone who’s driven east of 192nd Avenue knows, Camas is in the midst of a major growth spurt. It’s a great place to live, with top-tier public schools, a quaint, walkable downtown and lovely parks. Although the legacy employer, the paper mill, is due for a large closure next year, there are many new jobs and the opportunity to commute to Portland. People are coming to Camas.

The next phase of development will target land north of the lake. Eventually the open space, now used primarily for farming and pasture, will grow 1,000 new houses or more, along with some new businesses and a school. While we’ll miss the green vistas and probably mourn the increased traffic, we can also rejoice in the fact that 100 acres along the lake are being conserved.

As The Columbian’s Adam Littman reported, the acreage will be acquired at a cost of $4.8 million. Most of the funding, $2.58 million, will come from taxpayers via the county’s Conservation Futures fund. City government will use $1.5 million from a fund dedicated to conserving and protecting green space, and the rest of the money will come in the form of donated land.

“It’s something that will be valued and cherished for generations to come,” said Dan Roix, conservation director with Columbia Land Trust.

City Administrator Pete Capell said the land acquisition will not only provide the route for a loop trail, it will also preserve the trees and the view of the lake from the south shore.

Combined with the existing segments, the trail will total around 7 miles and will be open to pedestrians and bicyclists. The Camas-Washougal Wildlife League’s shooting range is part of the land deal; the plans are to close it and use the land for parking and perhaps some restroom buildings.

Eventually, a new boat launch for nonmotorized craft such as kayaks and canoes could be built at the north end of the lake, where a pedestrian bridge is also planned near Northeast Goodwin Road to close the loop.

Combined with the current land holdings, nearly 975 acres around the lake will be publicly owned. And just to the east lies Round Lake, already encircled by a public trail and the jumping off point to Lacamas Regional Park, which offers 6 miles of hiking and biking trails in a forested setting. A day spent wandering in the park is an excellent reminder of the things we love best about living in the Pacific Northwest.

The acquisition of this land along Lacamas Lake’s north shore will ensure that more of these opportunities are provided, even as Camas continues its transition from a small mill town to a home to technology, financial and other 21st century businesses and several thousand more people.