It’s been six months since the San Jose City Council closed San Jose Family Camp (SJFC) for the 2010 camping season, but work has not yet begun on the demolition of the camp’s dining hall, which was one of the major reasons for its closure. However, an official with the San Jose Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services (SJPRNS) said that demolition will begin soon and they plan to open the camp in time for the 2011 camping season.
“We are on schedule to open in the spring,” Mona Favorite-Hill, communication manager for SJPRNS, said. “We are definitely moving forward with the demolition of the dining hall and tent addition. We are just waiting for the entire city budget process to be finalized before we begin.” The City Council appropriated $253,000 in June for the demolition of the dining hall and the installation of the dining hall tent structure. SJPRNS plans to have this part of the project completed before the winter season.
The camp was closed at the March 2 City Council meeting after the Council was notified that there was “significant structural weakness” to the camp’s 60-year-old dining hall, which was used by nearly 250 campers three times a day from May to September each year. The Council was also notified of drinking water contamination issues from the camp’s wells that sporadically plague the camp each year. The Council approved the SJPRNS request to ask the United States Forest Service (USFS) to extend its 20-year lease by one year while staff works on a master plan for SJFC that includes options for a full or partial demolition of the dining hall; ways to make the camp more financially sustainable so that user fees cover the costs of running the camp; and how much it would cost to not renew the 20-year lease and close the camp.
SJFC is operated by SJPRNS but is located in the Stanislaus National Forest along the Tuolumne River, just outside the northern entrance of Yosemite National Park. Many San Jose family campers, such as San Jose resident Sue Butler, have been going for years with large groups of family and friends. “We just love San Jose Family Camp,” Butler said. “It’s the perfect place for any age because there are lots of group activities, no alcohol, and you don’t need to cook.” The self-contained campground facility has 65 wood tent platforms that can accommodate up to six campers, plus showers and restroom areas throughout the camp.
Favorite-Hill said that the city is taking advantage of the closure to make other needed repairs and to spruce up Family Camp. She said that the city has replaced the lining in all of the wells at SJFC because there had been contamination issues that made the water undrinkable at times. They are also sprucing up tent structures and making any other needed repairs that they find.
Until the master plan is completed next spring and approved by the San Jose City Council, construction will not begin on the new dining hall, Favorite-Hill said. The Council must approve any new structure before it can begin the bidding process and construction can begin. Part of the master plan requires that the SJPRNS ask the community for input and look into the option of shutting down SJFC. Favorite-Hill did not think the city would pursue shutting down SJFC, but the details must be included in the SJFC master plan as requested by the Council.
“The positive feedback we get from the community on San Jose Family Camp is phenomenal,” Favorite-Hill said. SJFC has been booked solid for years and is an excellent, safe and affordable camping vacation experience that many might not be otherwise able to afford. She said that the camp is a great service for residents.
The city owns all the buildings at SJFC, while the USFS owns the land. If the city were to decide to close SJFC, they would have to restore the 36.3 acres to its natural state, and Favorite-Hill said that could cost more than keeping SJFC open. The final decision of SJFC’s future is up to the City Council based on what they learn from the SJFC master plan that will be presented at a Council meeting in the spring.
SJPRNS is in the process of developing a survey that will be mailed out by the end of September to campers who visited in 2009 and other longtime campers. Input from the survey will be used to help develop the SJFC master plan, Favorite-Hill, said. Those who do not receive a survey in the mail but wish to complete one will be able to download it off the city’s SJFC website at http://www.sanjoseca.gov/prns/familycamp/