Camp Pico Blanco, the oldest Boy Scout camp along the central coast, has not escaped the damage caused by the ongoing Basin Complex Fire. Located adjacent to the Los Padres National Forrest, this 800 acre camp provides year-round camping opportunities for thousands of youth from across central and northern California each year.
The fire started on June 21st as a lightning strike in the Big Sur area. This fire soon spread out into surrounding areas and on June 25th scout leaders made the decision to move campers to alternate locations until camp was safe for their return. Council staff, including Scout Executive Albert Gallegos, worked closely with the council Camping Committee to locate safe and alternate locations. Ultimately, Boulder Creek Scout Reservation in the Santa Cruz mountains was selected as the site for the Cub Scout Resident Camps and National Youth Leadership Training. Boy Scout Troops from throughout the area have been re-directed to other Scout camps throughout California for their summer camp experience.
Last week a BSA inspection team was escorted through the camp property by fire service personnel where they saw first hand the destruction this fire has caused. Scout Executive Gallegos said, “The sight was incredible. Just about every section of camp landscape has been burned by the fire.” He went on to indicate that damaged trees have come down throughout camp and, along with loose rock, are falling on roads and hiking trails. “There are still a number of sections of camp that are actively burning or smoldering,” Gallegos added.
In addition to the damage to some trees and brush, Pico Blanco has suffered a loss of some facilities. The Camp Rangers’ home and associated generator and water tanks are a total loss. Two of the outhouses have burned to the ground. Since their walk through last week the scouts have been notified that a tree came down on the rifle range, rendering it unusable. All of the other camp buildings used to deliver program appear to be safe, in particular the Hayward Lodge Dining Hall and the Crosby Kitchen. Other structures such as the new Haynes Charitable Foundation Water Treatment System and the water storage tanks are intact. However, all of the above ground water lines have been destroyed and are in need of replacement.
Gallegos is certain that the effort of the firefighting crews is largely responsible for saving most of the buildings. “When we vacated camp, the firefighters were working hard to add clearance around each of the buildings, providing an even larger fire break around them,” he said. Scouts from throughout the area are pleased to hear that key areas in camp are still standing. “I love going to Camp Pico Blanco and am sad I can’t go there this summer. I am glad the firefighters were able to save camp so I can go back there next year.” said Nathan Hagler, a First-Class Scout from Troop 60 in Spreckels.
Camp Pico Blanco is now officially closed until further notice. It will take months of work to perform the tasks necessary to make this camp safe again for use. Damages and recovery costs are expected to exceed a half million dollars. Although there will be some insurance claim funds available to restore buildings, those funds will certainly not cover all the damage throughout camp.
The scout council executive board met in emergency session on July 17th and has started work on the recovery process. Recovery Committees related to areas of concern such as erosion control, forestry management, trail rehabilitation, road reconstruction and water system management have been formed to provide guidance to the necessary repair work.
It will take the time, talent and resources of scouting families, scouting alumni, and the community to bring this camp back to a place where young people can thrive again. Cash donations in support of this effort will be greatly appreciated and can be sent to the Camp Pico Blanco Recovery Fund, c/o Haruda Scout Center in Salinas. Individuals that are willing to serve on a specific recovery committee or work party are encouraged to contact the Haruda Scout Center as well.
Recovering from a loss such as this will not be easy. With the assistance of the community, the scouts believe they will be prepared to open in time for the 2009 camping season.
Monterey Bay Area Council, Boy Scouts of America
Camp Pico Blanco Recovery Fund, Account #702
Haruda Scout Center
55 E. San Joaquin St
Salinas, Ca 93901