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Camp Meeker Beat - August 2015


Camp Meeker Beat - August 2015

by Tom Austin

Legwork. You’ve probably heard the term in the abstract. I have learned the literal meaning of the term in writing this column. There is no substitute for shoe leather, for walking the beat. One of my favorite things about Camp Meeker is that great hiking is as close as your front door. Sometimes I just walk around the neighborhood, and if I’m lucky I run into some of the fascinating people who live here. On one of my recent jaunts I had the pleasure of running into Ben Evenbeck, who in addition to being a volunteer fireman is also the Land Manager for St. Dorothy’s. His wife Katie is the Executive Director for St. Dorothy’s, and I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with her and learning about the oldest continually operating summer camp in California – since 1901. 

I walked into St. Dorothy’s just as scores of happy children were checking out after a week in the forest, heading back home to the world of freeways and concrete freshly infused with some actual nature. In a couple of days a fresh batch of campers will be coming in, this time a group of kids who have undergone organ transplants, including heart transplants. It might be easy to take living in a forest for granted for us, but for these kids it will be medicine of the finest kind.   That’s what St. Dorothy’s does.

Another thing St. Dorothy’s does is be a good neighbor to Camp Meeker. You might have heard this before, but in 2012 St. Dorothy’s became the owner of all of the Chenoweth/Aho land throughout Camp Meeker. I’m sure you are quite curious as to their plans for the land, and Katie was able to get me up to date. It has been a very large effort for St. Dorothy’s, and they are still hard at work at it.   Their current plans are entirely about stewardship and not development. As in Camp Meeker, the new St. Dorothy’s land has been hit hard by sudden oak death, and they consider reducing the fuel load to be their highest priority on this land at present.   This is a huge job, and there are no shortcuts – it involves long hours of sweaty work with chainsaws and chippers. St. Dorothy’s is in conversations with their new neighbors and partner organizations such as Alliance Redwoods, Occidental Arts and Ecology, Gold Ridge RCD, and have had volunteers from Americorps to do this backbreaking work. There isn’t really a finish date: land stewardship is an ongoing process. 

Once this work progresses sufficiently, St. Dorothy’s is (by contrast to the previous owners) eager to engage the Camp Meeker community and share this hidden jewel. However, they ask your good will and patience as they still have a lot of hard work to do. They are hopeful to welcome some type of community forum in the future, but for now Katie looks forward to hearing your concerns and questions and even your praise and positive feedback by email: I’m certainly happy my legwork put me in contact with Ben and Katie, and I wish I had done this long ago.    

I wish I had more column inches to share with you the good work St. Dorothy’s is doing, and I look forward to doing so in future columns. I know we all owe them a debt of gratitude for taking on the huge and important task of taking care of the land around us, our hidden jewel of a forest. We can all look forward to getting to know our neighbors better. On that note, Katie is very aware of the difficulties that can ensue when squadrons of civilian parents are turned loose on Camp Meeker’s vaunted roads (she does her best to educate),  and the parking problem when there are multiple events at St. Dorothy’s and Anderson Hall.   They are fully committed to communicating with the Park and Rec people to manage this issue in the future. There have been lessons learned, and their ears are wide open to suggested improvements. Katie and Ben, as well as many other St. Dorothy’s staff members live here in Camp Meeker and can look at things from both sides now. Shout out to Judy Collins, y’all!

Now here’s a little teaser: I have an Indian legend to share! Stay tuned.