Camp Ocean Pines supporters gathered recently at the forested, hilltop facility to mark a changing of the guard, so to speak.
The Sunday, Dec. 2, event focused on the incoming regime of Andrew Boyd-Goodrich, who takes the reins Dec. 31 as the camp’s executive director, and the retirement of longtime Executive Director Chris Cameron and CFO Rosemay Cameron.
Boyd-Goodrich has an extensive camp background, having grown up as the son of a camp director. He brings to Camp Ocean Pines his seven years as executive director of the 927-acre YMCA Camp Jones Gulch in Santa Cruz and 13 years at Camp Point Bonita YMCA in Sausalito (as program director and then seven years as associate executive director).
Both camps are part of the YMCA of San Francisco.
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But the party was mostly to celebrate the Cameron legacy. Chris Cameron has been the camp’s executive director for 17 years; wife Rosemay Cameron has been the CFO for 15 years plus.
The surprise of the day was that, “in honor of their exceptional stewardship,” the camp’s lodge building (formerly known as the Ocean Lodge) is now named The Cameron Lodge. The directors also set up a Cameron Legacy Fund, to which people can donate in honor of them and help fund their vision for the camp.
The festive get-together at the camp included lots of reminiscing about accomplishments achieved in the past 17 years by the Camerons and the legions of others they attracted to the program and the camp, which has always been rustic but which used to be a lot more rough-and- tumble than it is now.
In that time, the Camerons, board members, donors and volunteers have boot-strapped the 13-acre facility that used to be a YMCA camp but is now owned by the community of Cambria.
There’s an overlay of sophistication to the camp now, with a wide-ranging reputation for quality, expanded programs and repurposed/upgraded facilities blended with the thick forest, narrow and bumpy access road and, oh yes, that jaw-droppingly beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.
All that has boosted the camp’s reputation, Chris Cameron said, and many families choose “to return year after year.” Artists and naturalists are attracted to the revitalized camp, too, he said.
“Artists love the whimsy and serendipity of camp, and are inspired by the setting,” he said.
Many full-time, year-round and part-time staffers live locally. Some summer staffers are from out of state, and other counselors are international, including from the Ukraine, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and other nations.
Here are just a few of the reuse/repurpose/recycle tasks accomplished during the Camerons’ tenure, with the help of many community members, grants and donations:
• Eight of the circa-WWII cabins from Vandenberg Air Force Base were repaired or replaced and brought up to code, including fire sprinkler systems. The passive-solar design cabins were done with straw-bale construction. (Two other cabins had been redone before Chris Cameron arrived in February 2002.)
• Some of the bathroom facilities were moved into the cabins, the old bathroom buildings were removed and shower buildings repurposed.
• Some old buildings were repurposed into a speakers’ cabin and separate nature center (complete with resident wildlife and a marine invertebrate touch tank).
• The rickety wooden amphitheater was upgraded with a concrete stage and seating for 225 that overlooks the forest.
• Old buildings were converted into the artsy Pines Lodge and Craft Lodge.
• Ocean Amphitheater, a meeting space for campers before they enter the dining hall, was added to the Dining Hall and Ocean Lodge.
• An ADA trail was built, with a $40,000 community block development grant.
New programs include:
• A revitalized summer camp program — every bed was filled for every session in 2018, Chris Cameron said.
• More offsite adventures to places as diverse as Big Sur, Catalina Island, Hawaii and road trips all over the state. “Lots of mentoring” happens on those adventures, Cameron said, with “older campers who become counselors and then paid staff.”
• Outdoor education, including a new science-camp environmental outdoor education camp for school groups, which serves about 30 schools each year from as far away as the East Coast.
• Adult workshops for all manner of creative people.
• Facility rentals for weddings, reunions, programs, open houses, memorials and more.
• UC California Naturalist Program held at the camp twice a year.
Many people have contributed to upgrading Camp Ocean Pines, but some have gone above and beyond.
Cameron said a partial list includes architect Ken Haggard from SLO Sustainability, Cambria Hardware, Paul Reichardt, Tom Tierney, Cambria Community Council grants, Abalone Farm, Layne Laboratories in Arroyo Grande, Don Seawater of Pacific Coast Lumber, Bobbie Monroe, Patrice Wyse, Northrup/Grumman, Phil and Nan Allen, Cambria Odd Fellows, Cambria Rotary, Morro Bay Rotary and then county supervisor Shirley Bianchi.
Also crucial to the efforts were the nearly 50 directors who have served their terms on the camp’s board since 1995. The list is a veritable who’s who of influential Cambria movers and shakers. Current directors include board President Cheryl Steed, Carrie Buhl, Crissa Hewitt, Carolyn Meadows, Toni Mertens and Bob Putney.