If you have been to Camas recently, you have experienced a town that is vibrant with growth. It wasn’t always like this, however. Two decades ago, 50 percent of the downtown business spaces were vacant and there was very little for families or passersby to do. But in the last 15 years, Camas has seen a significant revitalization that has brought in unique boutiques, award-winning breweries and restaurants, art galleries, wellness centers and much more.
The transformation, in large part, has happened through the dedicated efforts of the Downtown Camas Association and its many partners, including the City of Camas, the entrepreneurs that have invested their ideas, dollars and time into the town, and the community residents that have embraced shopping, dining, and using services in the local area.
A Brief History of Camas
The iconic paper mill in Camas is one of the things that makes the city unique. The mill was first built in 1883 and over the years drew engineers, chemists, researchers and other specialists from around the country. Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Downtown Camas Association, explains that the mill connected everyone. “This truly was a mill town where almost everyone worked for the mill or was connected with it in some way,” she shares. “This created the atmosphere of working together for a common shared purpose and having something in common. People worked hard and had community pride because the success of the mill affected everyone.”
In addition, because of the type of talented and trained individuals that were being employed at the mill, education was always a priority for residents. Because of that, the schools in Camas were great from day one. “If you are going to attract this type of talent, you need great schools,” shares Schulstad. “So, the Camas School District has been exceptional from the very beginning. The mill had a research lab and a paper school: education and innovation have always been a part of the lifestyle here.”
The Future of Camas
Schulstad explains that in the last 20 years, Camas has almost doubled in size. “The population in Camas has grown from 12,534 to just under 24,000 currently,” she says. “People move to our city for the incredible school system, close-by outdoor recreation, airport and now our vibrant downtown! We have 30 new housing units being built in our downtown and we are hoping for many more to continue to bring more options to downtown and help our downtown businesses thrive.”
No matter what kind of growth occurs, the city plans to keep its charming small-town vibe. The historic buildings and lamp posts, murals, and the tree-lined main street with plenty of flowers and artistic sculptures integrated throughout celebrate the City’s history and visitors enjoy the surprises at every corner. Schulstad explains that Camas is truly an unexpected gem. “It offers unexpected charm, amenities and authenticity in a world where more of that is needed,” she says.
Looking ahead, Camas visitors and residents can continue to expect more events that are created specifically to bring people together. Some of these ongoing special activities and events include First Friday, Camas Plant and Garden Fair, Camas Car Show, Camas Farmers Market (summer), Camas Days, Camas Vintage and Art Faire, Camas Boo-Bashand much more. Third Thursdays, which will feature after hours shopping, special dining offers and live music will be added in summer 2020.
In addition, there will be several other notable things happening in 2020. In April, a Historic Mill Photo Art Collage outdoor installation will be revealed, and a new historic walking tour will commence. Four new buildings are being built downtown, a new custom furniture and home décor store is opening, and new street signs will be installed along 4th Avenue to help direct people to various shops and restaurants around town.
With so much growth expected, Schulstad encourages people to get involved and volunteer with some of the fun things that are happening in town. “We have volunteer opportunities at every event, from helping with kid’s crafts, photography, creating art, or manning the greeting or information tables,” she says. “We have so many ways to plug in!”
Learn more about upcoming Camas events and activities here.
Learn more about the history of Camas here.