Friday, September 6, 2013

Berkeley Considers Alternate Summer Camp in Aftermath of Rim Fire

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group

BERKELEY -- City officials confirmed their worse fears about the destruction of the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp when they got a firsthand look Monday with a law enforcement escort after the massive Rim Fire near Yosemite roared through Aug. 25. 

And the city is "absolutely" considering options for an alternate summer camp next year, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said Thursday. 

"We're so early in the process, we don't know where it might be," he said. 

After the Monday visit, city officials confirmed that all the main buildings, including the dining hall, recreation hall and amphitheater, burned down. Out of 80 buildings, only 12 to 16 tent cabins and a restroom remain. 

"We are currently working to hire a contractor to remove debris," Chakko said in a statement Wednesday. 

Chakko said city officials don't know if they can rebuild the camp, but they are working with the U.S. Forest Service, Tuolumne County and the city's insurance company to see what comes next. 

"When we went up on Monday, things were still on fire and smoldering," Chakko said. "We were only allowed in for two hours." 

The Friends of Berkeley Family Camp, which was started in 1985, have met with city officials twice since the fire. Board member Craig Fendel said the group is happy the city is considering an alternative site for next year. 

"The recreation department, from what we've heard, doesn't want to lose the campers to other camps, so they're looking for an alternative to keep the camping experience alive," Fendel said. 

Fendel said building a new camp will be a much more difficult process than it was when originally conceived in 1921 and built in 1922. 

"They'll have to work with the Forest Service, Tuolumne County and their own staff and all the regulations that were not in place back then," Fendel said. 

Fendel said the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp will have an event at Berkeley Repertory Theatre Oct. 6 at 4:30 p.m. to recreate a show put on by staff at the camp on Saturday nights when camp is in session. 

"We're trying to channel the many, many people emotionally affected by the devastation up there," Fendel said. "We want to try to keep people engaged." 

Contact Doug Oakley at 510-843-1408. Follow him on Twitter at

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