Nov 7, 2014 – Visit to Camp with The City of Berkeley and USFS

FOBTC Board members visit Camp with US Forest Service and City officials

Last Friday, November 7th, Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Board Members took part in a tour of our beloved camp along with City of Berkeley and US Forest Service (USFS) officials. Scott Ferris, Berkeley Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Director, led the tour, which included the US Forest Service’s Groveland District Ranger Jim Junette and Recreation Specialist Dusty Vaughn; Camp Tuolumne Master Planners Patrick and Jane Miller from 2M Associates; Toni Mester from the Parks Commission;  Recreation Services Manager Denise Brown, and City of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

Scott and Denise provided the USFS and City officials with background information on BTC’s history and operations. We walked through all of camp, including the area that was left untouched – down by cabin 36 and 37. FOBTC Board Members shared their memories as former staff and campers.

In September, all of the approximately 1400 ‘hazard trees’ identified by arborists were taken down. FOBTC was very active advocating for oversight and extremely careful logging, and are pleased to report that ONLY hazardous trees were removed, and the contractor, Sierra Pacific Industries, did a good job of minimizing impacts. In fact, many logs were deliberately left parallel to the contours of the hills, to prevent soil erosion.

This was the first time that all parties (the City of Berkeley, The USFS, and FOBTC) saw the site after the hazard trees were logged. Despite the shock of seeing the Rim Fire’s destruction, the tour was actually very positive and the future looks bright, even with so many trees gone. Here’s what we saw:

The Site:

The Rim Fire came down from above Girls Camp and burned quickly through the entrance and center of Camp. As you know, it destroyed all the buildings in main camp, and all the tents on the hillside above main camp and girls camp. From the parking area to the Stage area, including Thimbleberry Creek, and down hill all the way to the river in main camp, there are very few trees left standing. That is the worst of the damage, and the most shocking. It is an open, raw space now. A new open canvas to create a future camp on.


the view from the parking lot looking towards Girls Camp

Sun City was also dramatically affected, except for the bathrooms and a couple of cabins. Even the worst fire in history cannot take down THOSE bathrooms! 🙂

But the amazing thing is, heading towards lower beach from Main camp, many cabins still stand, and many pines, firs, and dogwoods are still standing tall! The fire did damage some trees in this area and the lower bathrooms were also burned but the area was not hit head-on like the center of camp.  A few hazardous trees in this area were felled in the recent logging operation and it is our hope that most if not all of the remaining fire-damaged trees will survive. Lower Beach itself looks ready right now for cocktail hour, horseshoes, and for kids fishing or rafting.


There is no softening the blow though: it is devastating and heartbreaking to see open space where our Green Chair Circle, Volleyball Court, Office, Rec Hall, and D-Hall used to be. There are piles of burnt logs and slash where we used to play ping pong. There are lonely concrete slabs where the K-Staff used to make morning pancakes and the Rec Staff used to lead tie-dye t-shirts.

the Green Circle of Chairs area and the D-Hall steps in August

When we walked in from the road, our first impression was that Camp looked so small. Without the trees, you can now see so much more of the land we’re on – the steep hillsides and contoured terrain. It’s beautiful in a natural way. From above Girls Camp, it actually resembles a beautiful little natural amphitheater, ringed by the tall trees that survived the fire.

                                                                                   Next steps:
There were many constructive conversations about the future of camp. And while we look forward, we need to bear in mind that more trees will probably need to come down – particularly if the drought continues. We’re all hoping for a robust winter so that the dogwoods, black oaks, and maples can resprout, and so we’ll begin to see new pines, firs, and cedars sprouting up. There will be another check after the winter on how specific trees are doing. Pray for rain and snow, but not TOO much rain or snow; we need the topsoil to remain in place.  🙂

The City of Berkeley is working with their Master Planners (2m Associates) and with the USFS to iron out the new Master Plan, as they negotiate a new Special Use Permit (lease) and move forward with rebuilding camp. In our visit, the tone was definitely upbeat and collaborative. All parties seem to be committed to working towards rebuilding our beloved BTC right there at 31585 Hardin Flat Rd!

Groveland District Ranger Jim Junette expressed that we have a ‘clean slate’ and Recreation Specialist Dusty Vaughn also emphasized the value of having family camps in the Stanislaus National Forest. Everyone seemed to be on the same page, and looking to work together to rebuild this special treasure. Our friends at the Forest Service were very reassuring that the tree cover would eventually come back. FOBTC is excited to fund raise, advocate, and plan for the eventual support of reforestation efforts, trail rebuilding, environmental education programming, and whatever else our new Camp Tuolumne will need.

There will be a time in the Master Planning process for public comment and camper involvement, and we promise to let you know about that opportunity so that you can bring your ideas and concerns. It will not be for a while, as there are still lease, permitting, insurance, and other issues to be worked out by the City and other stakeholders. But when that day comes, we’ll begin the next exciting chapter of rebuilding Camp!

Visiting the Area:
The USFS will be reopening the Rim Fire Area on November 14th. Here is the link to their website for more information:

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The Fall leaves at Rainbow Pool were beautiful last weekend

We also heard that Tuolumne County will be reopening the Hardin Flat to visitors beginning November 18th. You can get more information or contact information at this site:

This means that if you and your family or friends would like to drive up to the area and visit, you will be able to drive up after November 18th. While you can drive on Harden Flat Road, the City of Berkeley is still prohibiting people from actually going on the lease area, because it is still hazardous.

It will be Trespassing to go onto any part of the Camp Area, so please obey this law. It is imperative that we all respect this boundary.

But you can walk along Hardin Flat Road, or hike the fire roads above Camp, or hike up to Small Falls. Please keep in mind that all areas of the Rim Fire area are dangerous, as trails are damaged from fallen trees, loose rock, and debris.

Again, to respect our beloved camp and the City’s work to rebuild – please DO NOT go on the actual camp grounds.

FOBTC is committed to continuing to monitor all work and progress on behalf of the Camper community, and to communicate any information to you we can. We are your eyes and ears and your advocacy organization, and are dedicated to the rebuilding of Camp.

Contact: with any questions/comments/suggestions

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