April might be the biggest month in quite some time for those interested in the fate of the popular Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp.
A public process focused on how Berkeley may one day rebuild the camp is expected to kick off in the next few weeks, according to city staff. There’s also a special event related to the camp set for April 14 at Freight & Salvage.
Ever since the Rim Fire devastated the camp in 2013, the city has worked to come to an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service about what could eventually be rebuilt on the property.
Now, the city and forest service have finally reached that agreement, Berkeley parks director Scott Ferris told the Berkeley City Council at a work session in late March. Officials have said previously that the earliest a rebuild might happen is 2018.
Ferris said a community process is slated to begin at the end of April and is likely to last four to five months. The city will collect feedback from camp supporters, including the board of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, as well as Berkeley city staff and the community of Groveland, where the camp had operated since 1922.
That input, in turn, will become part of the documentation needed for environmental approvals that will later be required for the rebuild.
On March 24, Ferris read a statement to city officials outlining the basics of the recent city-forest service compromise. Ferris described the deal as “a big step.”
He said he had been working with the legal department and forest service for more than a year to negotiate a set of guidelines for the camp’s master development plan. That plan will guide any rebuilding that could take place.
“The formal acceptance of the latest conceptual plan sets the stage for us to move forward,” Ferris told the council. “So that’s good news.”
He said the agreement sets out about a half-dozen guidelines for the rebuild, but he declined to discuss the specifics with the council, saying officials would receive a memo about the details in early April. That information also will be posted on the city website.
“Given these guidelines, what should camp look like?” Ferris said, describing what people who take part in the public process will be asked. “We’ll get that feedback. It’ll come together as part of the master development plan” used to pursue the necessary environmental approvals.
“I’m pretty confident that camp will be rebuilt,” he said, adding that the guidelines “give us enough room to contain a lot of those essential elements that really made up camp.”
Councilman Laurie Capitelli said it would be vital for the community to be realistic, and to respect those guidelines throughout the public process.
“It’s really important that our citizens understand that there are some parameters to this process so that we don’t start going way off into the weeds,” he observed, “and a two-year process turns into a four-year process.”
Capitelli also asked Ferris who would pay for the public process, particularly if outreach needs to be done in Groveland, which is about 2½ hours from Berkeley.
Ferris said costs associated with the public process would primarily comprise staff and consultant time, which are paid for out of the camps fund as well as from the insurance money.
“Have we settled the insurance issue?” asked Capitelli.
“It’s going to be a constant negotiation,” Ferris replied. “It’s going to take awhile. At some point, as we’re farther down the road, we’ll have more of an update on what the insurance is funding and what they’re not funding.”
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates congratulated Ferris on the deal, and said much work remains to be done.
“I did visit the camp. It was devastating,” Bates said. “There’s so many issues that have to be involved to restore that camp.”
Ferris told the council the city is also working on making improvements at its Echo Lake Camp, some of which have been necessitated by the increased demand on the facility, given the current closure of Tuolumne Camp. The city plans to spend $50,000 in fiscal year 2015-16 to rebuild several cabins, and another $50,000 the following year on leach fields, which are part of the camp’s sewage system. He said the city has recently completed some repairs, too, of the dining hall trellis and lodge deck.
Camp event comes to Freight & Salvage
Separately, the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp is holding a special event April 14 at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse at 2020 Addison St.
From the organizers: “The Rim Fire was one of the nation’s worst disasters and one of the worst fires California has ever had. Come see an amazing and powerful presentation, and ask questions about the Rim Fire and its effects on the land we love by the U.S. Forest Service, as they work towards reforesting an area the size of Los Angeles!”
The event is set to include rare footage showing camp life in 1948, a slideshow of the camp from this past December and an update from city staff about where things currently stand. Attendees also will have a chance to learn from the U.S. Forest Service and area volunteers about how to play a role in the future of the Stanislaus Forest after the Rim Fire. Learn more on the Friends website, RSVP on the Facebook event page or purchase tickets (for about $11).
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