CAMAS — Camas kids seeking swimming lessons had to rough it before the Crown Park pool opened in May 1954.
“We used to have lessons in the Sandy swimming hole,” said Beverly Seagraves, who grew up in Washougal. “It would be raining, and we’d be in there. I remember dog paddling across the Sandy.”
Seagraves was a student at Washougal High School when the pool opened on May 22, 1954, and said she remembers biking to the pool for swim club. She later worked as a lifeguard there, and years later, took her own kids to the pool, like many other Camas and Washougal residents.
But it’s a tradition that won’t be passed down any longer, as the Crown Park pool — the county’s only outdoor public pool — hasn’t been used since summer 2017. On Thursday, the city hosted a farewell party for the pool at the Camas Community Center, allowing residents to view old photos, learn about the pool’s history and share their memories.
“It’s sad,” Seagraves said. “Everybody needs to learn how to swim. It should be mandatory in schools.”
Steve Barnett, a lifelong Camas resident, said he and his sister took swim lessons at the pool as kids because their mother was “deathly afraid” of water. Barnett used to go to the pool in the morning for a swim lesson, walk home for lunch and then walk back to the pool and swim until his dad got off from work at the paper mill.
“I spent all day long at the pool,” said Barnett, who graduated from Camas High School in 1964. “I can’t hardly imagine kids not having access to the pool.”
After spending at least four or five summers at the pool, Barnett went to work for a couple of summers at the mill, which has also undergone some changes in recent years with the communications paper machine, fine paper converting assets, pulping operations and related equipment shutting down. The mill laid off close to 300 employees in 2018.
Barnett said between the pool’s closure and mill’s shrinking influence, it’s been a big change for the Camas he grew up in.
“The pool was the main focus for my generation every summer,” he said.
While the city got 60-plus years of use out of the pool, it had plenty of issues in recent years.
Bringing the pool into compliance with health and safety codes would have cost somewhere in the range of $481,000 to $710,000, city Administrator Pete Capell said last summer. Estimates for a complete renovation were in the range of $1.69 million to $2.19 million, almost enough to build an entirely new pool.
The pool was built for $90,000 and paid for by the Lions Club. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $858,679 in 2018, according to the city’s presentation at the farewell party.
Future of the pool
The pool will be demolished sometime this spring.
City officials have discussed a number of options for Crown Park and another pool in the city. There was talk of replacing the pool with a splash pad but that wasn’t too popular with residents, said Randy Curtis, chairman of the city’s parks and recreation commission. The city is still looking at options for renovating the park.
There has also been talk about building a new community center that could have some sort of aquatic option. The cities of Camas and Washougal, both school districts and the Port of Camas-Washougal have formed a joint task force to look into building a new community center.
Curtis said the task force is looking at three sites:
• 26 acres in Camas on mill property known as the Camas Business Center.
• 7 acres in Washougal on two vacant parcels of property owned by the Vancouver Clinic and Goodwill north of the marina.
• Privately owned property north of Camas High School that is close to the border between the two cities.
Curtis said neither city wants to put money toward a project that will end up deep into city limits of the other city. He also said the task force is looking at a variety of options for the project and estimates it could cost somewhere in the range of $35 million to $85 million.