The Cambrian

Planners reject Cambria proposal for recreation facility at old Air Force base

BKS Cambria has proposed a resort-like development for the decommissioned Cambria Air Force Base.
BKS Cambria has proposed a resort-like development for the decommissioned Cambria Air Force Base. Courtesy photo

If BKS Cambria wants to create a tent-camping resort for adults on the old Air Force Radar Station south of Cambria, the property’s owners would first have to create an alternate route off the hilltop for guests who might have to evacuate in an emergency and for medical and fire crews responding onto the hilltop site for a fire, medical or other crisis.

County Planning Commission members unanimously voted 4-0 on Dec. 13 to deny BKS the permit it would need to craft an adult-camping facility out of the Cold-War-era buildings and facilities currently on the site. Commissioner Dawn Ortiz-Legg was absent.

The 34-plus acre BKS project is at 202 Monte Cristo Place, approximately 1 mile west of Highway 1, and 1.5 miles south of Cambria.

The property is reached via a 2.2-mile rural road through ranchland and off the hill to Highway 1.

Several commissioners said they thought the BKS camping concept was a good one, but public health and safety could be at risk without an alternate route to and from the remote site.

As proposed, the project’s first phase would create a 25-space tent-camping facility for adults, with a caretaker’s residence, emergency shelter and private helipad.

Additional phases of the project would refurbish and convert existing buildings into a limited service restaurant, a limited service coffee shop/visitor center, outdoor multisport sports facility, arts and crafts workshop, recreation-gymnasium building, metals and wood workshop/seminar building, Cambria Air Force base museum, three buildings of lodging facilities.

An option to create an emergency road between the hilltop site and a residential area in the southern end of Cambria hit roadblocks and objections from neighbors in that area and owners of agricultural land in between.

BKS representative Mike Schaefers told commissioners that Cal Fire has assigned a moderate-risk fire danger rating to the recreationally zoned property, rather than a high risk as asserted by county planners in their staff report.

Schaefers also said that the adult guests should be able to choose for themselves the kinds of risks they’re willing to take, such as scuba diving, rock climbing, jumping out of airplanes and tent camping in a remote area with moderate fire risk.

However, planners and the commissioners wouldn’t budge on supporting the Cal Fire requirement for a secondary access.

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