As I was out filming my last Wait a Minute Video at the “scene of the crime” a/k/a the former Crown Park Pool, I could not help feeling the immense loss our city has suffered. On this 100-degree day, I should have heard the laughter and giggles of children and adults laughing, splashing, playing and learning to swim. But the silence was deafening.
Instead, I was standing alone in silence on a grassy knoll – mourning the loss of a community treasure. As I was filming, a supportive citizen drove by, honked and cheered for me. He asked if I was talking about the pool. As soon as I said yes, he parked his car, jumped out and shared his story with me.
He reminisced about his childhood memories of diving off the high dive, hanging out with his friends and then walking over to Top Burger for fries after a day of fun in the sun. As I listened, his eyes began to water. Visibly upset about the loss of the Crown Park Pool, his sadness turned to anger, and he said “they just didn’t listen – they just didn’t care. They wanted what THEY wanted, not what WE wanted.” He was right.
Did you know that over 1500 Crown Park Residents signed a petition and went to City Hall begging the city not to bury the pool? The city said they were listening, but they didn’t. Did you know that instead of repairing the pool, or even replacing the old pool with a brand-new pool in the same location, the city thought they knew better than the citizens? Did you know that the city bulldozed over the citizen’s pleas and dug out the Crown Park Pool as fast as they could, replacing it with a grassy knoll?
Another passerby overheard our conversation and chimed in: “I remember when they dug out the pool! I’ve never seen the city act so fast on a construction project! It was as if they had to do it in the middle of the night so no one would really know what was happening – they buried it. They buried our voices, and they buried the memories that were made here for decades and the memories that could have been made for years to come. Why? I want to know why.”
With Crown Park Pool buried and no longer a visual reminder of two other viable options to repair or replace the pool, the city plowed ahead with its own agenda. The city’s agenda was a $78M aquatic center that would take Camas Taxpayers 20 years to pay off. The city would also raise taxes on poperty owners by $500 a year and charge expensive membership fees to join the “new” pool on top of the tax increase. Fixed income seniors complained the tax hike would be devastating.
What had been and could have continued to be a COMMUNITY pool for ALL citizens, was now a fancy new aquatic center available only to those who could afford the exclusive membership. And if that wasn’t enough, this new aquatic center wouldn’t just hurt all the taxpayers for the benefit of only those who could afford it, the new aquatic center would have put over 15 local fitness businesses OUT of business! Aren’t these the people we elected to represent us and serve and protect our community and local businesses?
Citizens of Camas were clear. They wanted Crown Park repaired or replaced. They banded together, signed a petition, and marched to City Hall demanding that their voices be heard. But the city did what has become a disturbing habit. Our elected officials flat out ignored the citizens of Camas, buried their pool and moved forward with an agenda that carried a price tag almost 20 times higher than replacing the Crown Park Pool.
With no voice to represent them, the citizens of Camas banded together AGAIN, and demanded their voices be heard. The pool bond was defeated overwhelming 90-10 in 2019. But the damage was already done. Crown Pool Park is gone, and our elected officials buried it.
Time after time, we are assured that our elected officials are “listening.” But they are either not HEARING us, or they are simply ignoring us. Time after time, citizens are forced to take matters into their own hands and do the job we elect our leaders to do. Crown Park Pool is just another example of run-away government. Government that shuts out citizen voices. Government that thinks they know better than the citizens, government that creates more problems than solutions, government that buries businesses, dreams, memories and voices in the process of advancing what they think we need.
Camas deserves better. Camas deserves elected officials that will LISTEN. Camas deserves a new Crown Park pool that will bring the community together.