Berkeley Tuolumne Camp has been a beloved fixture of Berkeley summers since 1922. It has hosted thousands of guests, and for many Berkeley High School (BHS) students, time spent at Tuolumne is a cherished part of their childhoods.
The family camp is nestled just outside of Yosemite National Park, and has all the charm of a classic camp experience. Guests stay in one of 76 tent cabins, eat family-style in a communal dining hall, and have their pick from an array of activities.
Many Berkeley residents, like Anna Fry, a BHS junior, have been going to Tuolumne for years, and their experiences at camp mean a lot to them. Fry has been going to Tuolumne since she was four years old, and remembers her summers spent there fondly.
“[My friends and I] would just run around and explore most of the time,” she said. One of her favorite activities was jumping off the iconic Beaver Head Rock.
Unfortunately, in August of 2013, Tuolumne burned down during the Rim Fire. Of the 138 buildings at the camp, only 19 were left. “I was devastated,” said Fry, “[Tuolumne] was such a big part of my whole family’s life.”
The sense of loss many people felt has sparked a massive rebuilding effort, principally by Friends of the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp (FOBTC) and the City of Berkeley. FOBTC began as an initiative to protect Tuolumne from a dam project that would have submerged the camp underwater in 1981, and eventually developed into the camp’s “guardian angel” so to speak. The organization’s new goal is to have Tuolumne back open by June 2022.
Marcie Holmes, the director of development of FOBTC, is optimistic about achieving its long term goals. “[We want to make sure] that camp remains a diverse and inclusive place for all families … and that camp traditions, values, and the Tuolumne spirit are continued for generations to come,” said Holmes.
Though she and the other members of FOBTC are doing all that they can to get Tuolumne up and running again, she said that support from the community is crucial too. For example, in February, over 100 volunteers planted 1000 trees at the campsite, hoping to rejuvenate the landscape. “We welcome anyone and everyone to give to Tuolumne —whether you’ve been there, or hope to bring your kids there one day,” Holmes said.
At a May 13 meeting, which was attended by about 250 former Tuolumne campers and FOBTC members, FOBTC, in collaboration with the City of Berkeley Department of Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront, revealed detailed site plans of the new camp for the first time.
The plans include rebuilding formerly existent camp structures, as well as new additions like wheelchair accessible trails and shade structures. The overall size of the camp will be doubled from 15 to 30 acres. The dining hall will be rebuilt with one large room, rather than two, to allow for better communication and community building. 2500 square feet of wrap-around decking will be added to the dining hall to compensate for area lost due to new codes that prohibit building on the river banks.
FOBTC board members also thanked all who have helped so far, and asked for continued support to be able to meet their fund-raising goal of one million dollars by October 2019.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín thanked all for “keeping the spirit alive.” At no time could the camp spirit have been stronger than when the camp members sang a heartfelt rendition of the camp song.