After last August’s Rim Fire wiped out Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp in the Sierra, that announcement at a recent gathering for campers drew a round of applause. As did the declaration by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates that, “We’re going to do everything we can do, humanly possible… and beyond humanly possible, to rebuild that camp.”
But, despite the hopeful signs of spring in the fire zone, and the commitment of local officials, it will be 2018 at least before Berkeley’s much-loved family summer camp can be rebuilt.
Scott Ferris, director of Berkeley’s parks department, updated the Tuolumne camper community at a gathering at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse last month. (A 1.5-hour video of the evening, with a mix of information and performances, can be seen on the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Facebook page.)
Read on for a summary of the state of the camp and its surroundings, as reported at the gathering.
Patrick Koepele, director of the Tuolumne River Trust, shared photos of the Rim Fire region. While one looked like a lava field and another showed black columns of tree trunks, other photos captured incredible displays of spring wildflowers, typical after a forest fire.
“We’ve seen wildflower blooms like we hadn’t seen in years, followed by hummingbirds and other pollinators,” Koepele said.
He also showed Rainbow Pool, 6 miles west of camp and downstream, the white water of the waterfall blackened by soil runoff from the fire zone. As bad as that sounds, Koepele pointed out that this year’s drought had spared the region the big landslides that could have occurred.
Hardin Flat Road, which leads from Highway 120 to the camp, is closed a half-mile before the camp’s entrance, coming from the west, Ferris said. The bridge on Hardin Flat that crosses the Tuolumne River just outside the camp’s dirt parking lot was damaged in the fire, he added. Beams under the bridge, as well as the pedestrian walkway, burned.
Tuolumne County is planning to rebuild the bridge in 2016, said Duke York, the county’s deputy director of roads. The new bridge will be wider and “not a wooden bridge,” he said. The old bridge is still open to limited traffic but, since the road is closed, it’s effectively off limits.
Camp itself, and the forest around it, remains closed to visitors through at least November by the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land. (The huge number of dead trees could fall and injure people, authorities said.) Fines for trespassing are as high as $5,000 per person. See the Forest Service website for more on the closure
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Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp (FOBTC) is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Camp experience for present and future generations through education, volunteer efforts, and financial support.