CONCORD, CA (Aug. 30, 2021) — Camp Concord, the City’s summer camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the southwest shores of Lake Tahoe and nearby Fallen Leaf Lake, has been evacuated as the Caldor Fire threatens South Lake Tahoe.
Steve Voorhies, Concord’s director of parks and recreation, said Camp Concord staff is safe after leaving Aug. 16, putting a stop for now to its 2021 programming that is “solidly booked” thorough mid-October. “We had been experiencing poor air quality for a while before we removed staff in an abundance of caution.”
The former Camp Concord director says one of the first events canceled was a wedding which had originally been scheduled last summer when camp was unable to open at all due to COVID-19. He understands the couple did get married in Reno.
Voorhies explains that city staff has been deluged with concerned calls and emails from Camp Concord camper and staff alumni “from around the world” as well as local residents.
He said that when staff left last week, they took all the motor vehicles back to Concord. The camp’s maintenance worker, who lives in South Lake Tahoe, was evacuating today. Prior to leaving camp he engaged all the fire hoses and water lines, leaving the site ready as a potential staging area for firefighters.
El Dorado Forest
The city has a special use permit to operate Camp Concord on 27 acres in El Dorado National Forest from the federal government. Voorhies lauded the National Park Service for its partnership with Concord. The current lease between the two agencies is up for renewal in 2025.
The Lake Valley Fire Department is located across Fallen Leaf Lake from Camp Concord and would be in the line of the Caldor Fire before it would reach Camp Concord.
Voorhies also expressed concerns for beloved Berkeley Echo Lake Camp and Camp Sacramento that have been in more immediate jeopardy. Updates appear to indicate Camp Sacramento has for now have survived largely unscathed. Both camps have been operating for a century off Highway 50.
This summer, the city merged all its Camp Concord programming–including children’s residential camp and family camp—into the groups rental program. Camp Director Mark Fragoso said, “This move was a very difficult decision but will help ensure Camp Concord remains ‘the Happiest Place on Dirt’ for many years to come.”
Over the years, more and more groups began renting camp. For the first time ever this summer, the city of Concord did not take any family camp or children’s residential camp reservations, moving all activities in the direction of groups.
Camp Concord was the idea of former police chief Ron Orin and opened in 1967. The site has 19 family cabins, 10 kid’s cabins, two bathhouses, large dining hall and commercial kitchen, amphitheatre and other traditional camp amenities in the rustic setting in the El Dorado National Forest.
Friends of Camp Concord was established as a non-profit organization in 1983 to support the camp facilities and programs. This year, the group sent over 100 underserved children over two weeks to camp. The group’s largest annual fundraiser Dan Ashley’s Friends of Camp Concord Golf Tournament is celebrating its 25th year Oct. 4 at Crow Canyon Country Club.
All of this especially hits close to home for Voorhies. “The first time I ever saw Lake Tahoe was driving over the summit on the way to Camp Concord.” He spent two summer visits at camp learning archery as a kid, volunteered there during adolescence and worked as a counselor while he attended San Francisco State. After going to work for the city of Concord parks and rec department, Voorhies served as camp director for several years.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.