The YMCA Camp Seymour is building out its facilities to a point where it can now serve 350 overnight campers, 150 day-campers and 70 staff. And, following its long-range plan, there is more construction to come.

Because of this the camp was advised last fall by the Pierce County fire marshal that no new building permits will be issued until the camp can meet current fire protection safety standards, which in this case will require a water source capable of providing 1,500 gallons per minute flow for two hours at a minimum pressure of 20 PSI.

The question is how to achieve the fire marshal’s fire flow requirements in a way that balances practical construction issues and honors the quiet, forested rural character of the Key Peninsula.

The YMCA board and staff, headquartered in Tacoma, hired an engineering firm. Two of that firm’s proposed options stand out: a 60-foot tall water tower within full view of Thomas Road that cannot be effectively screened or hidden from view; or two 20-foot water tanks, operated with pumps as needed, in the same location that can be successfully screened.

The YMCA chose the 60-foot water tower option and the organization continues defending that choice in spite of the Key Peninsula Advisory Commission’s 5-0 vote in opposition at a standing-room-only public meeting July 18. In addition, over 20 neighbors of Camp Seymour have written to Pierce County Planning stating their support of Camp Seymour but opposition to this 60-foot water tower.

The option to construct two 20-foot tanks at the Thomas Road site is being ignored by the YMCA board and staff, even though that option would simultaneously achieve Camp Seymour’s expansion goals while demonstrating respect for our community goals of maintaining the rural character of the Key Peninsula. The engineer hired by the YMCA noted that two 20-foot tanks with pumps would satisfy the requirements of the fire marshal. He testified in front of the hearing examiner that the use of fire pumps to provide fire flow when needed is “common.”

For two months the YMCA board and key staff have turned a deaf ear to objections from the KP community to the 60-foot tower, and for over a month they have ignored the workable and preferred option of two shorter tanks.

Cell towers aside, there are no structures 60-feet tall on the KP––nothing as massive, industrial and visible as this proposed tank. Once a 60-foot structure is built, others will follow and the character of the Key Peninsula will be changed forever.

Everyone agrees that Camp Seymour is a well-loved landmark of the Key Peninsula. Many of us attended the camp as children and we continue to send our children and grandchildren as well.

Everyone agrees the camp must meet updated fire protection safety standards to protect life.

The option of two shorter tanks is a good one that could and should be viewed as a win-win for the YMCA and the Key Peninsula community. Please join me, 50 of your neighbors and the Key Peninsula Advisory Commission in telling the board and staff of the YMCA that this proposed 60-foot tall water tower is not welcome on the Key Peninsula. It doesn’t fit.

Peter Stanley, Vaughn

A Moment to Pause