In 1981, longtime camper and former staff member Mike McEneany saw a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle describing a massive expansion of the Hetch Hetchy water and power system that would include a dam on the South Fork Tuolumne River at Hardin Flat. The ‘Ponderosa Project’, if completed, would have submerged Berkeley Tuolumne Camp under 200 feet of water.
Mike, Tim Hassler, Craig Fendel, and several other concerned campers formed FOBTC as a 501(c)3 non-profit to protect camp from this plan. They also helped form the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust, a coalition of campers, whitewater rafters, local residents, fishermen, environmentalists, and local businesses organizing against the dam project.
In 1984, the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust and Senator Richard Lehman introduced a bill to Congress that successfully protected 83 miles of the Tuolumne River as ‘Wild and Scenic’. While the 23-mile long South Fork Tuolumne was not included in the bill, this major conservation victory effectively ended the Ponderosa Project, and saved Camp from the dam at Hardin Flat.
Since successfully defending Camp from that threat, we have continued to preserve and enhance the Camp experience by supporting camp operations. Through successful fundraising at our annual Labor Day Weekend celebration and through annual membership fees, we have supported Camp by:
- Donating over $70,000 to rebuild the Stage
- With the help of the annual Ahwahnee donations, sending the staff to their annual appreciation dinner
- Initiating and funding many camp capital improvements like the Dining Hall fireplace, the Rec Hall porch and the planned new Nature Center
- Purchasing critical equipment for Camp
On August 25th, 2013, the massive Rim Fire ripped through the South Fork Tuolumne watershed and destroyed our beloved Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.
Just days after this devastating loss, FOBTC met to strategize the next phase of our work. Our group of ‘Friends’ immediately swelled to over 1000 strong, and we have been working closely with the devoted community of campers and staff alumni, the City of Berkeley, and other organizations to help with rebuilding efforts.
The FOBTC Board added new members and hired a part-time Executive Director, Scott Gelfand, who could keep the campers engaged with local events and involved in the rebuilding process. The new Board worked successfully with The US Forest Service to create a new narrative on the vital purpose of recreation campers in the Stanislaus National Forest, and together they crafted a new working partnership with the City of Berkeley. The US Forest Service gave the City 30 acres to work with to rebuild camp, up from 14.5 acres on the last special use permit. They also allowed us to leave the Dining Hall in its current footprint, so that the center of camp would have the same feel by the river.
On April 4, 2017, the new Mayor of Berkeley Jesse Arreguin, and his newly elected Council, voted on a measure to fund 3.3 million dollars from the City’s Catastrophic Fund to pay for the next two years of rebuilding expenses, effectively committing the City to rebuilding the camp. This was THEE yay or nay vote – we go forward or the project of rebuilding is stalled – and FOBTC visited every Council Member ahead of time and pledged $50,000 towards the rebuilding effort if the measure passed.
It passed unanimously on the consent calendar. The plans are being put forward and a design team, Siegel and Strain, was hired in the fall 2017. Cost of Basis Design and environmental reviews will happen over 2018 and 2019, and the timeline is to begin construction in 2020. The goal is to have Camp open in June 2022.
FOBTC continues to be the advocate for the Camper Community and the vehicle for supporting camp and staff with donations, with community partnerships that help camp, and with educating the public, staff and campers on important camp news.
Board of Directors
Steve Geahry (Current President) is a 3rd generation Tuolumne Camper. He worked on staff from 1994-97 and has written and directed the Tuolumne Camp Staff Show with Scott Gelfand since 1998. He has a perfect attendance record at Work Weekend (including through rain and snow!) since 1994.
Richard Thomason (Vice President) came to camp with his family every summer from 2002 until the day they evacuated out of camp ahead of the Rim Fire in 2013. He and his family loved every minute of their time at camp, and his daughters made him promise that camp would be there for their kids! Richard is a Berkeley resident, a former staff person to the State Legislature, and also a board member of the Berkeley High School Development Group.
Phillip Coffin (Treasurer) started going to Camp as a little kid, and then from 1993-2001 worked on kitchen, maintenance, Rec, and Nature Center staffs. For his senior project at UC Santa Cruz, Phil wrote a book, Nature Guide to Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, which many campers bought in the old Camp Store and read in the old Green Chair Circle. Many years later, Phil works for the East Bay Regional Park District in parkland acquisition. Phil joined the Board in 2013, just before the Rim Fire, and currently serves as the Board Treasurer.
Janine Kraus first came to Camp with a group of friends and family in 2003 and formed lifelong bonds and traditions. Janine lives in Berkeley and can’t wait for happy hour on lower beach again. She works for the Audubon Society (and would probably be on kitchen staff at camp if she could go back in time).
Brenda Buxton has lived in Berkeley since 1994 and happily attended camp with her family from 2004 until the year of the fire. She has lovely memories of relaxing by the river, happy hour on the island, and dirty children running feral through camp. Professionally, Brenda has worked at the State Coastal Conservancy for over 30 years and is currently working on the Bay Trail, Ridge Trail, and South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Projects.
Marcie Holmes stepped foot at Camp Tuolumne for the very first time in June of 2008, and you could say the rest is history! She worked as the baker and in the office for a couple of magical summers, creating lifelong friendships and meeting her future husband, Aram Novosel. When Marcie returned to the Bay Area in 2018, she began working with FOBTC, using her background of fundraising and nonprofit management to lead the Rebuilding Campaign. Marcie works for University of California, Berkeley and enjoys gardening, hiking, cycling and dancing in the moonlight.
Rachel Coffin Amare was born and raised in Berkeley and first attended Camp in 1987. She served as a staff member from 1996-1999 in the Dining Hall and Recreation. She is dedicated to supporting all efforts to rebuild Camp as soon as possible, so that her children and many more generations of families can experience the joy, love and Camp Spirit that has been such an integral part of the fabric of her life. When not dreaming about Camp, Rachel works as an OB/GYN doctor for Kaiser Permanente.
Meka Tull was born and raised in the Bay Area. She never attended Camp as a camper, but served on staff in various roles from 1996-2000 in the Dining Hall, Kiddie Camp, and Recreation. Professionally, she has worked in the educational and mental health field for the last 15 years and now serves as Director of School Partnerships/School Psychologist intern supervisor at Seneca Family of Agencies. Meka is passionate about helping FOBTC rebuild Camp and brings a specific background in programming and leading diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Emeritus Members: Tim Hassler, Christine Chilcott, Craig Fendel, Dave Newell, Janine Newell, Christine Ahlstrand, Michael McEneany, Jennifer Booth Johnson, Richard Sheng and Barry Fike.
Scott Gelfand (Executive Director) has been on staff and at camp since he was hired as the Recreation Director in 1986. He also worked as the Assistant Director in 1987. In 1987, Scott founded The Buddy Club, a successful Bay Area children’s entertainment company that entertains some 100,000 kids and families each year. He is also the Chief Operating Officer for The Bay Area Book Festival, the largest literary event in Northern California. Since 1986, Scott has written and directed every Staff Show along with Steve Geahry, and is committed to keeping everyone’s Camp Spirit alive!
Kara Perez (Development and Communications Coordinator) was hired in September 2020 to bring her expertise in fundraising to FOBTC. Professionally, she has had the privilege of working in the non-profit sector for over a decade within various fundraising roles at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, George Mason University and most recently, her alma mater, Young Harris College. A Georgia native, Kara enjoys living in the Appalachian mountains with her husband and three kids, Adrian, Ava Rose and Aaron. The entire Perez family looks forward to coming out to the west coast in honor of the grand reopening of BTC in the summer of 2022!