Visiting the remains of Berkeley’s Tuolomne Family Camp near Yosemite after the summer’s Rim Fire was apparently a big draw over the Indigenous People’s Day weekend in October. About 40 people dropped in on the camp just on that one weekend, said Scott Ferris, director of the Berkeley parks department.
And it seems that at least one person has visited even more recently, as someone anonymously posted pictures on Dec. 17 of the burned camp under snow on the Friends of Berkeley Tuolomne Camp Facebook page.
“Obviously, people are curious,” Ferris said. While he is sympathetic, Ferris is asking that the community not visit the site for safety and liability reasons. There are about 1,000 dead trees on the property that could fall at any time, he said.
“Some have fallen already, and (the standing ones) are degrading on a daily basis. What looks to be a harmless situation is not,” Ferris said.
“Burn areas are extremely hazardous,” added Roger Miller of the parks department. “When a 100- to 200-foot tree fails, it can crash at any time.” Miller also said that there are holes and cracks in the ground, now perhaps covered by snow, that make the area unsafe.
The Tuolomne Camp, just northwest of Yosemite National Park, burned almost completely on Aug. 25 in the Rim Fire, which scorched 402 square miles and was the biggest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada. The 91-year-old camp served more than 4,000 visitors each summer, according to the city of Berkeley’s web site.
Supporters of the camp have been meeting with the city to discuss efforts to rebuild the much-loved institution. The city’s Parks and Waterfront Commission may lay the groundwork for a new parcel tax, bond measure or some combination of the two to help finance a rebuild, although the process is in preliminary stages.
The fire left a few of the tent cabins standing, but took out the camp’s main buildings — a dining hall, a recreation center and an office — as well as much of the forest.
Ferris gave the following report on camp last week: at the western end of camp (downstream), 14 tent cabins survived, as well as two in Sun City, on the north side of the river. Four or five of those tents are damaged, but probably re-usable. As for the rest of the tents, all that is left are the concrete block supports. In Sun City, the bathroom also survived, untouched.
Although early photos that seemed to show the main bridge in camp intact, it actually burned. A removable bridge, from the camp’s island to Sun City did not burn.
As of early December, most of the debris from the fire had been removed.
Much of the forest is devastated, Ferris said. If one were standing on the stage, the entire view up the hillside and to the left and the right is all burned. Some patches of trees along the river fared better, he said.
“The forest service owns the trees,” he said, and it has a lengthy process of approvals to go through before the thousand or so trees can be removed. The forest is closed, and signs on Highway 120 at Hardin Flat Road say do not enter, Ferris said.
Meanwhile, the parks department has been busy trying to secure a temporary site for family camp in the summer of 2014. They had expected to finalize plans earlier in December, but have not reached that point yet. Finding a temporary site for the summer is “a high priority,” said city spokesman Matthai Chakko.
The Berkeley High Jacket recently reported that four camps were on the short list: Echo Lake Camp, Berkeley’s own property, just off Highway 50, near South Lake Tahoe; YMCA Sequoia Camp, near King’s Canyon National Park, east of Fresno; Camp Sylvester near Pinecrest Lake off Highway 108, one mile from U.C. Berkeley’s Lair of the Bear family camp; and a Girl Scout camp near Arnold off Highway 4.
The department is also working on a master plan for rebuilding at Tuolomne, a process that is expected to take “many, many months.” The plan needs to be complete before rebuilding, according to Ferris.
Berkeley Tuolumne Camp supporters push to rebuild (10.16.13)
Commission, public discuss priorities for Berkeley’s parks (10.04.13)
4 public meetings planned on future of Berkeley parks (09.05.13)
After the fire: What next for Berkeley Tuolumne Camp? (09.05.13)
Berkeley gathers to remember much-loved Tuolumne Camp (08.27.13)
Rim Fire destroys Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp (08.25.13)
Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp appears safe for now (08.24.13)
Berkeley’s Tuolumne Family camp closed due to wildfires (08.22.13)
Wildfires put Tuolumne Family Camp on evacuation alert (08.20.13)
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