Berkeley Family Camp on the Tuolumne River. Photo: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr
Berkeley Family Camp on the Tuolumne River before it was destroyed by the Rim Fire in 2013. Photo: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr

The effort to rebuild Berkeley’s favorite family camp is well underway and, if the optimism on display at a recent meeting of those involved in planning its Phoenix-like rising from the ashes is indicative, the goal of a new camp by 2018 may be achievable.

As we reported earlier this month, the City of Berkeley is soliciting the community’s input by holding a series of public workshops over the next few months for those interested in Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by the Rim Fire in 2013. As part of that process, there’s an online survey where people can provide their thoughts (it closes on May 15). According to the city, much of the camp is set to be rebuilt “essentially in place.”

On April 14, dozens of Camp Tuolumne fans gathered at the Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley to hear from various parties on what has to happen for a brand new camp to be ready for summers of fun.

At the meeting, the US Forest Service discussed the steps that need to be taken to restore the natural habitat, including clearing dead and hazardous trees, planting vegetation for soil stability, and re-opening trails. Ultimately, a total of 7 million new trees will be planted over the next ten years, said the service’s Clare Long.

A 13-minute film by Stephen Most and Kevin White, “The Fire Next Time,” made clear the need for proscribed fires in order to prevent the sort of devastating conflagrations like the Rim Fire that are exacerbated by fuel build-up:

Denise Brown and Craig Veramay from the City of Berkeley stressed that the camp site is still closed — there are real dangers lurking there for trespassers — and summarized the work done so far on fundraising, liaising with FEMA and insurance companies, and removing trees. The Stanislaus National Forest service has approved the city’s conceptual plans for the new camp. The pre-scoping process, Brown and Veramay said, involves gathering the community input, as well as jumping through state-mandated hoops, such as CEQA.

For all those yearning to know what their beloved camp looks like now, Scott Gelfand of the proactive Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp group presented a short video that had been shot after he and his family secured a permit to spend some time at the site:

YouTube video

The mood at the gathering was hopeful and buoyant. Even if the 2018 deadline proves overly optimistic, it was agreed that a new camp would have to be up and running well before the camp’s centennial celebration in 2022. Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp is believed to be the only camp in its area to be operated by one municipality since its inception.

The evening concluded with Gelfand rallying the troops, and showing a 16-mm film of the camp in 1948 that was found during the fire and saved. Gelfand edited the footage with his brother, a professional video editor, and FOBTC digitized it:

YouTube video

Berkeley Tuolumne Camp plans show several changes, public process has launched (04.13.15)
City almost ready for input on Berkeley Tuolumne Camp (04.06.15)
1 year after devastating fire, 3 events planned for Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp (08.19.14)
Tuolumne Camp vs Echo Lake camp: veterans compare (07.28.14)
4 years at least until Berkeley Tuolumne Camp is rebuilt (05.28.14)
Saved from Tuolumne Camp blaze: A stopped watch (04.24.14)
Support for Tuolumne Camp stretches across the nation (02.06.14)
Berkeley family camp will this year be at Echo Lake (01.27.14)
Berkeley Tuolumne Camp unsafe for visitors, says city (12.20.13)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...