By Pat Gordon, First UU of San Diego Board Member
Our UU camp, Camp de Benneville Pines, located in the San Gorgonio wilderness, has been repeatedly hit hard this year and is in trouble. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all on-site events are canceled through April 1, 2021.The aftermath of the El Dorado Fire damage and the seriousness of the pandemic could require even further delays before we can consider re-opening. If we're to have a camp to bequeath to our children's children, then preserving what we have now is imperative. We almost lost our camp in the El Dorado Fire, this fire, and had it not been for the work of our staff and volunteers performing fire clearance duties throughout the summer, we would have. And yet, we'll still need more help during the spring and fall to rake pine needles and trim ladder fuels in camp- live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the forest floor into the tree canopy. Please continue to send healing thoughts and good words of appreciation to our devoted staff, as they navigate through all the added responsibilities that come with the fire aftermath. We must now address the newest threat to camp's existence - flooding.
Without a forest on the hill behind camp, preparing camp for the inevitable water and mudflow is extremely important. We need to keep the flooding from going into camp buildings and onto the roads. The camp's wellhead could get buried under mudflow. This puts the existence of our sacred space in the mountains in jeopardy once again, as it was five years ago.
Staff members are working daily with volunteers to fill sandbags and get them placed in strategic spots to divert water around buildings. In addition, they're preparing for winterizing the buildings and getting the snow equipment out and ready. Initial estimates for these efforts are around $300,000! The COVID-19 Emergency Fund Drive has shifted now to do double duty and has been renamed camp's 2020/2021 Emergency Fund Drive. The fund drive will continue to seek donations to cover operational expenses, but now needs to raise money to help pay for fire and water flow mitigation. We will also apply for grant funds to help offset the costs of erosion and flood mitigation.
It's so important to take a moment and express how grateful we are for the contributions raised during the first seven months of the COVID-19 Emergency Fund Drive. Over $250,000 dollars of the $600,000 operations goal was met. We were on track to raise $600,000 over 18 months, but that goal is now increased to encompass the funding needed for the flood and erosion mitigation.
We need everyone's help at all levels to reach our new goal of $750,000. This allows us to fill and place upwards of 6,000 sandbags in strategic areas around our compound. These larger erosion prevention projects need to be approved by the County and U.S. Forestry Service (USFS) before that work begins.
Please volunteer your time to come up for a day to fill sandbags, rake, clean gutters, and/or place wood chips on the burned hill next to Craig's Cabin. Donate what you can. Talk to and write to everyone you know who understands how important it is to save this camp for our children. Ask them to log onto the camp's website: uucamp.org and DONATE NOW.
Between September 1 and December 31, 2020, all funds donated will be matched to the level of $100,000. May Camp de Benneville Pines continue to be blessed by you through your continued support of love, outreach, volunteering, and donations so our children's children may be blessed with the opportunity to experience its beauty, tranquility, and spirituality.
The First UU Church of San Diego blog is your resource for upcoming events and past event recaps. Leave us a comment to let us know what you think!