Nearly three years after Camas voters in the November 2019 general election overwhelmingly shot down a city proposal to build a $78 million aquatics-community center, Camas officials are considering bringing a public pool conversation back to the table.
Having heard from several constituents who may not have supported the city’s bond proposal but still longed for Camas’ public outdoor swimming pool, Camas City Council members in 2021 asked the city’s parks and recreation director, Trang Lam, to gather information about what it might take to have a public pool in Camas once again.
Lam, who came to Camas more than one year after the failed 2019 “pool bond,” researched the history of the city’s historic Crown Park swimming pool, delved into the city’s 2019 bid to build a two-pool aquatics-community center, reached out to possible partners — including the YMCA, which will soon break ground on a Ridgefield aquatics-community center facility — and pulled cost estimates from other jurisdictions that have built public pools in recent years.
Though voters did not support the city’s 2019 “pool bond” proposal to increase property taxes to fund a public aquatics-community center on city-owned land near Camas’ Heritage Park and renovate sports fields throughout the city, Camas officials said many of their constituents were still asking why the city couldn’t build a much less costly public swimming pool.
Lam has said that, if city officials decide they want to pursue initial planning for a public pool, the city will need to do much more extensive public outreach and educate the community on how long a project like this might take and what it might cost to build and maintain an aquatics center.
She also told the council she has discussed a possible timeline with YMCA representatives, who agreed it would likely take Camas 10 years to plan, fund and build a public aquatics center.
Lam told council members in July that she would bring a budget package back to them during the city’s 2023-24 biennial budget process so city officials could decide if they wanted to kick off what would likely be a decade-long effort to site a public pool or public aquatic facility in Camas.
The budget package could include $150,000 for pool planning and $120,000 — plus an annual investment of around $100,000 — to hire a project manager for the city’s parks and recreation department.
“To get a wonderful facility, and to operate it, we need resources to plan for it and do it well. We know from the past what it looks like when we shortcut it a little bit, so let’s do it well, even if it takes a little longer,” Lam told the council in July. “It’s a large investment.”