Mariposa County, located in central California, approved the submitted plans for Camp Wawona and the Central California Conference to move forward with their requested updates, including replacing Camp Wawona’s main road. This long-awaited approval will allow Camp Wawona, nestled inside the Yosemite National Park, to begin building a two-lane road to the camp with all new infrastructure, a new dining hall, a new medical building, a new chapel, and new cabins.
Camp Wawona’s road was the first priority. “The road’s infrastructure is dilapidated because it is about 85 years old,” explained Jackie Phillips, capital campaign director for the Central California Conference.
Right now, the tentative plan is to complete the road before next year’s summer camp begins. There are contingencies in place as well, because the timeline will depend on how quickly the team of contractors can begin the project.
Camp Wawona Capital Campaign Updates
Watch an informational video about the new road as well as a virtual reality tour of the new road at: www.cccadventist.org/capitalwawona.
Find updates on the progress and support received at: www.cccadventist.org/capital. This capital campaign is about more than just Camp Wawona’s road. It also includes a new dining hall, a new medical building, a new chapel, and new cabins. They can now move forward with these exciting, much-needed updates. “This is just the beginning of what we dreamed for 24 years. As soon as the road is done, we are going to build either the medical building or the dining hall, depending on which building has the most money donated,” said Phillips.
The plan is to start at the top of the hill—at the end of the road—and work down the hill. This will cause the least amount of disruption to the camp after the project is begun, allowing camp programs to continue. “We’re very conscious of trying to get it done as soon as possible,” said Phillips. “The faster we do it, the less expensive it will be. Our plan is to be done by summer camp, but we will keep everyone posted.”
This approval is important to keep the camp up-to-date and safe. The current one-lane road has had many issues requiring repair. But it is also important because of the incredible amount of time and work put into getting to this point—about 24 years of work.
Twenty-four years of determination
The Central California Conference voted 24 years ago to do a capital campaign for Camp Wawona updates, including the road. Phillips started working for the conference in July 2001, and she has been working on this campaign since.
The conference had to get a permit to build but wasn't in compliance with the county. “We found out we are on National Park Service (NPS) property in a few places. We have encroachments we have to take care of, causing legal complications,” explained Phillips. In addition, a few people from the Wawona community wanted to stop the camp from building, saying they believed the camp would expand to a resort-style location and sell off.
The conference had to attend hearings and meet with Mariposa County to address this issue. Finally, in 2007 the plan was approved—but with a number of conditions that had to be met any time they did construction. It looked like things were moving forward for the camp, but then there was a lawsuit from some homeowners of the Wawona community against NPS for allowing the permit. This meant the camp couldn’t move forward with their plans while the lawsuit was pending.
And then—to add to the struggles—during the lawsuit there was a change in government in Mariposa County and the conditional permit was pulled. This meant the conference had to start all over.
Undeterred, they worked on new plans once the lawsuit was settled. “The contractor was working with Mariposa County and had received pre-approval,” explained Phillips. “They were tweaking the plans before doing the final submission. Then we drew up the plans, made the changes, and submitted the plans to the county.” Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
The plans waited at the county office for almost three years. “We kept checking with them, but we couldn’t talk to them face-to-face because of COVID,” said Phillips. “In the meantime, the road has been getting continually worse and worse. We’ve been patching the road for years to keep it safe.” Finally, September 1, 2022, Wawona County approved the updates.
Camp Wawona will begin construction by correcting the encroachments that are on NPS property. These include a couple of points in the road, the carport, and part of the Nature Building.
The original Nature Building was not on NPS property, but there was an addition added to the back. Twenty-four years ago, when the conference started working on the permit, they were told they’d have to remove the back half of the Nature Building.
“As soon as we get the encroachments taken care of and the Nature Building done, we’ll have the bids for the road,” said Phillips. The conference wasn’t allowed to request bids on the road until they received approval for the project.
“I just keep wondering, from a spiritual perspective, why it has gone this way,” said Phillips. “I don’t know why we’ve been delayed. I’ve asked God that many, many times. I do not have an answer.” But despite the many frustrations and delays in this project, it is now moving forward and will go on to bless the camp, its staff, attendees, and others for years to come.
By Brennan Hallock