It was a summer afternoon in Santa Barbara County when the destructive Whittier Fire in 2017 ravaged the Rancho Alegre Scout Camp site and outdoor school near Cachuma Lake.
More than four years ago, the majority of buildings at the Santa Ynez Valley camp and outdoor school burned to the ground in July.
The forest fire also charred the surrounding vegetation struck by the drought.
Residents and campers across the region were forced to evacuate after the fire broke out and ran along Route 154.
The fire destroyed more than 200 acres of wooded buildings in the camp, including 47 of 50 structures built in 52 years.
Since then, the Los Padres Council of Boy Scouts of America has decided to rebuild and construction work on 13 buildings is underway to renovate the historic camp.
If all goes well, The Outdoor School is slated to reopen in fall 2022, according to Glen Goddard, program director.
A dormitory under construction at Rancho Alegre and the outdoor school in the Santa Ynez Valley. (Photo provided)
“We’re about 60% done with the project,” Goddard told Noozhawk. “Now we are still constructing our buildings. “
Two 6-bedroom buildings for staff are under construction and three 2-bedroom structures have roofs, windows and doors completed.
“These are the interiors that remain now,” Goddard said.
The plans call for the installation of fire sprinkler systems which must be inspected.
“That’s where the catch lies,” Goddard said. “Firefighters tell us they can’t inspect our buildings until we get our road ready.
Staff housing under construction at Rancho Alegre and the Santa Ynez Valley Outdoor School. (Photo provided)
The access road to Rancho Alegre needs to be widened to allow heavy equipment, such as emergency vehicles, to enter and re-enter the camp safely. The improved roadway must also have branching areas and be paved before other camp reconstruction plans can be completed.
Staff evacuated in the Whittier fire in 2017 used the entry route to exit the area.
“They took this route,” Goddard said. “They didn’t have a lot of time.
Grading is yet to be completed, and walkways and other trails must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA.
Water, electricity and sewer lines are installed as part of the project, but ended up costing more than expected.
Project costs are rising for a variety of reasons, Goddard said.
Construction on the project is estimated at more than $ 18 million, Goddard said.
“During COVID-19, the money got less,” Goddard said. “We are still looking for approximately $ 4 million more to complete this project.
Almost three months after the wildfire broke out on a hill above neighboring Camp Whittier, the 18,430-acre Whittier Fire was declared fully under control in October 2017.
The Outdoor School is a nighttime environmental education program serving the Central Coast region for about 50 years, according to Los Padres BSA council officials.
Rancho Alegre has served over 10,000 boys and girls each year.
At the end of June, the Los Padres Council invited the Eagle Scouts to their first Gathering of Eagles event at Camp Rancho Alegre. The rally included a networking lunch for around 75 attendees, who also had the opportunity to meet other Eagle Scouts from the area.
Eagle Scout James R. Lewis, who is the City Manager of Pismo Beach, was the guest speaker at the event.
“This was our first real gathering of present and past Scouts who are Eagle Scouts,” said Goddard. “It was a big event, and we got to show off the camp.”
Additionally, members of the Los Padres Council, Boy Scouts of America Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties also celebrated her first class of female Eagle Scouts. Four local girls have reached the ranks.
“This is an important milestone,” Goddard said. “This is a huge deal within the Scout community. We have young girls who love scouting. Eagle Scout is a great achievement for these young women.