Pico Blanco Scout Reservation
|Camp Pico Blanco|
New logo of the formerly named Pico Blanco Scout Reservation
|Owner||Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council|
|Location||Big Sur, California|
Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council
Camp Pico Blanco is a summer camp of about 800 acres (320 ha) (originally 1,445 acres (585 ha)) in Central California, currently operated by the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council. In early 2012, Council Executive Albert Gallegos left and the Council's Executive Board announced it would be merging with the Santa Clara County Council. The merged council is studying which of the three camps it owns—Pico Blanco, Camp Hi-Sierra, and Chesebrough Scout Reservation—it will continue to operate.
Because the camp is surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness, the camp vicinity is an ecologically diverse and sensitive environment containing a number of unique animal and plant specimens, including the endangered Southern Steelhead Trout, the rare Dudley’s lousewort, the rare Santa Lucia fir, the California Coastal Redwood, and others. It is located at 800 feet (240 m) elevation on the pristine North Fork of the Little Sur River, 11.3 miles (18.2 km) south of Carmel, California on Highway 1, and eastward on Palo Calorado Road 7.6 miles (12.2 km) miles to Bottcher's Gap. The remaining 3.6 miles (5.8 km) miles of road into camp includes 2 miles (3.2 km) miles of narrow dirt road with four hair-pin switchbacks. Historically, the camp area was visited regularly by the Esselen American Indians, whose principal food source were acorns gathered from the Black Oak, Canyon Live Oak and Tanbark Oak in the vicinity of the camp.
In 2002 the camp was impacted by a change in state regulations governing seasonal dams on California rivers. An inspector found fault with how the council filled the dam and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration threatened to fine them. The council responded by installing a USD $1 million fish ladder and other modifications that satisfied the regulators and allowed the council to continue to use the dam in following years.
The camp has been repeatedly threatened by fire, including the massive Basin Complex fire of 2008, which was successfully kept at bay by fire fighters. The fire burned entirely around the camp, destroying the outlying ranger's residence. The council was forced to divert Scouts to another location for that summer.
The dominant features of the camp are the Coastal Redwood and the North Fork of the Little Sur River. Camp activities include aquatics, shooting sports at three ranges, handicraft, nature study, Scoutcraft skills (including a Skills Patrol area), a climbing and COPE course. The camp offers an Adventure Day each Wednesday during camp season which gives Scouts access to a number of activities both in camp and out of camp. In 2007 the camp launched an older Scout program called Pico Pathfinders. The program consists of hiking, outdoor skills learning, shotgun shooting, knife/tomahawk throwing, and craft making.
Pico Blanco camp is the home of the Order of the Arrow Lodge Esselen 531. Order of the Arrow, often referred to as OA, is a Boy Scouts of America National honorary society for campers and is dedicated to cheerful service. The camp also hosts the Council's one-week long National Youth Leadership Training program each summer.
During the first season of camp in 1954, the council offered seven six-day camp sessions from June 20 to August 7. Camp fees were USD $2.50 per camper (or about $21 in today's dollars) if the troop prepared its own meals, and USD $14.50 (or about $124 in today's dollars) if the troop ate at the central kitchen. In 2009, the council offered three sessions for USD $315.00 per Scout.
Area hiking and camping
Beginning at Botcher's Gap, the road into the camp is not open to private vehicles. Hikers can follow a National Forest trail down the camp road until it leaves the road for the Little Sur River Camp. The trail then follows the Little Sur River into the Boy Scout camp, where .68 miles (1.09 km) above the camp it forks. The southern or left branch follows the Little Sur River to first, Fish Camp (formerly the border of the camp), and shortly afterward, Jackson Camp, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) upstream. From Jackson Camp, there is a difficult, unmaintained and little-used route up Jackson Creek and overland to the Ventana Window. From the base of The Window, skilled climbers can scale the very steep Class 4 eastern face of the Window. From the eastern top of the Window, it is possible to hike cross-country to the Ventana Doublecone, though the trail can be difficult due to the very dense chaparral.
Hikers who choose to follow the Little Sur River can leave Jackson Camp and follow a trail to Fox Camp, about 2 miles (3.2 km) farther. At Fox Camp, the Ventana Creek spills into the Little Sur River. From Fox Camp hikers can follow the course of the river upstream to the Little Sur River Gorge. Depending on the stream flow, hikers can reach three waterfalls and pools known locally as the Circular Pools. Each is progressively more difficult to get past.
The western or right fork of the trail in Pico Blanco Scout Reservation climbs Launtz Ridge 11 miles (18 km) to a fork in the trail, where hikers can take the right fork to Pico Blanco Campground, Pico Blanco camp itself, and the Coast Road, or veer left to 1.1 kilometres (0.68 mi) Launtz Creek Camp, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and the coast 18 kilometres (11 mi) distant.:356
Double Cone Trek
|Campground / Feature||Mileage||Elevation||Coordinates|
|Botcher's Gap||0 miles (0 km)||2,060 feet (630 m)|
|Devil's Peak Ridge||3.8 miles (6.1 km)||4,075 feet (1,242 m)|
|Pat Springs||8.0 miles (12.9 km)||3,820 feet (1,160 m)|
|Little Pines||10.0 miles (16.1 km)||4,153 feet (1,266 m)|
|Double Cone summit †||15.0 miles (24.1 km)||4,853 feet (1,479 m)|
|Hiding Canyon||14.5 miles (23.3 km)||1,743 feet (531 m)|
|Pine Valley||20 miles (32 km)||3,141 feet (957 m)|
|Pine Ridge||24 miles (39 km)||4,180 feet (1,270 m)|
|Redwood Camp||28.8 miles (46.3 km)||1,800 feet (550 m)|
|Sykes Hot Springs||30.3 miles (48.8 km)||1,259 feet (384 m)|
|Barlow Flats||32.9 miles (52.9 km)||900 feet (270 m)|
|Terrace Creek||36.0 miles (57.9 km)||1,350 feet (410 m)|
|Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park||41.0 miles (66.0 km)||375 feet (114 m)|
|Manual Peak summit||47.0 miles (75.6 km)||1,686 feet (514 m)|
|Tin Shack||50.0 miles (80.5 km)||2,100 feet (640 m)|
|Pico Blanco summit †||51.5 miles (82.9 km)||3,709 feet (1,131 m)|
|Vado Camp||53.0 miles (85.3 km)||1,700 feet (520 m)|
|Launtz Creek||55.2 miles (88.8 km)||1,640 feet (500 m)|
|Camp Pico Blanco||60.2 miles (96.9 km)||793 feet (242 m)|
† Optional side-trip. Mileage not included in trek total.
The Double Cone Trek was conceived in 1966 by Camp Director Chet Frisbie and Program Director Red Bryan. They sent three summer camp staff and Eagle Scouts—Bill Roberts, Terry Trotter, and Martin Woodward—to check out a multi-day hike around the camp. Roberts secured a measuring wheel from the Sierra Club. Trotter conducted nature surveys, noting the various flora and fauna at campsites, and took photographs. Woodward was tasked with noting all the campsite amenities or lack thereof, and all three brainstormed about the merit badges that might be worked on during the trek. The hike circles the Boy Scout camp, beginning at Bottcher's Gap, eastward around the Ventana Double Cone though Hiding Canyon and over the Pine Ridge Trail, west over the Big Sur River to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and then back east through Pico Blanco Public Camp to the Boy Scout camp. Portions of the last stretch of trail were so overgrown at the time that Roberts had to carry the measuring wheel.
Before camp started in 1967, Roberts took a contingent of the summer camp Scout craft staff on a training hike. George St.Clair led the first group to complete the hike that summer, and two more troops completed the trek that year. Camp sites, mileage points, and GPS coordinates are shown in the table. Each Scout who finishes the long hike is awarded the Double Cone Trek patch.
Original facilities included the Bing Crosby Kitchen built with money donated by the Bing Crosby Fund, funded by the Bing Crosby Pro-Am Invitational. Other facilities also constructed when the camp was first built include an administration building, Catholic Chapel, Presbyterian Chapel, quartermaster's building and trading post, health lodge, staff lodge, handicraft lodge, boat house, the original camp ranger's cabin, bridges, river fords, electrical system, and twelve campsites. The Presbyterian Chapel was built around a cabin constructed by the Swetnam family in the 1890s. The Catholic Chapel has since been demolished. In the 1970s, the council erected a warehouse in the vicinity of the original rangers cabin, about .5 miles (0.80 km) outside of the main camp. A new circular, glass enclosed ranger residence was built about 1 mile (1.6 km) outside of camp on a short ridge spur alongside the entrance road in the mid 1970s. The Staff Lodge was slightly damaged by a tree fall in the 1980s, and Council Camp Director Dean Crafton opted to demolish the building rather than repair it.
In 2003–2006, the council built the Hayward Lodge Dining Hall adjoining the Bing Crosby Kitchen. They also re-roofed the handicraft lodge which had suffered from severe water damage between the 2004 and 2005 camping seasons, installed a large flag pole near the Trading Post at Downtown Pico (The Parade Ground), and a second, smaller flag pole at Uptown Pico (the Staff Area). The new ranger's residence was destroyed in the 2008 Basin Complex fire.
Little Sur River watershed
The North Fork of the Little Sur River, fed by several tributaries, passes through the camp. Because the river's watershed is entirely within the Ventana Wilderness, the upstream area is in pristine condition. The river is a key habitat for endangered Southern Steelhead Trout." In 1973 the California State Legislature, recognizing the river's "extraordinary scenic, fishery, wildlife, (and) outdoor recreational values" and to protect its "free-flowing and wild status," added the river to the California Protected Waterways System.:357 Responding to the state's request, in 1981 Monterey County added the river to its Protected Waterways Management Plan and encouraged the state in its Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan to designate the Little Sur area as a "coastal resource of national significance.":357:46
The Little Sur River watershed contains stands of some of the most impressive uncut Coastal Redwood trees in the entire Big Sur area,:355 including specimens over 200 feet (61 m) tall.:133 It also contains the largest and tallest stands of Douglas Fir on the Central Coast,:215 up to 150 feet (46 m) in height.:315 A stand of the rare Santa Lucia fir, described as "the rarest and most unusual fir in North America,":214 are found on Skinner's Ridge, east of the Scout camp. The North Fork of the Little Sur River supports the largest known population found on public lands of the rare Dudley’s lousewort. Endemic to redwood forests, fewer than 10 known locations are known to support the plant. The largest location is found within the camp itself at the site of the former Catholic Chapel.
River gorge wildlife and vegetation
Wildlife in the Little Sur River watershed include the mountain lion, bear, deer, fox, coyotes and wild boars. The area near the camp is populated with Coastal Redwood, Douglas Fir, Western Sycamore, Bay Laurel, Bigleaf Maple, and Tanbark Oak. Mixed in with the Redwood and Douglas Fir is a riparian habitat containing Alder, poison oak, and thimbleberry. The upper slopes above camp in some areas are chaparral, covered by coyote bush, ceanothus, chamise, manzanita, sagebrush, and bush lupine. On a few upper slopes may be found patches of open grassland dotted with Black Oak, Canyon Live Oak, and Tanbark Oak favored by the early Esselen inhabitants.
The Little Sur River is considered by the California Department of Fish and Game to be the "most important spawning stream for steelhead" on the Central Coast. A fisheries service report estimates that the number of trout in the entire south-central coast area—including the Pajaro River, Salinas River, Carmel River, Big Sur River, and Little Sur River—have dwindled from about 4,750 fish in 1965 to about 800 in 2005. The total number of steelhead in the Little Sur River was estimated at less than 100 in 1991.
The camp itself is at 793 feet (242 m) elevation, near the bottom of a bowl-shaped watershed, surrounded by Launtz Ridge and Pico Blanco (3,709 feet (1,131 m)) to the west, Devil's Peak (4,158 feet (1,267 m)) to the north, Uncle Sam Mountain (4,768 feet (1,453 m)) to the east, and Ventana Double Cone (4,853 feet (1,479 m)) to the southeast. Upstream tributaries include Jackson Creek, Pine Creek, Puerto Suelo Creek, and Comings Creek. A small creek enters the Little Sur River via a waterfall at the location of the seasonal reservoir in the camp proper. The immediate camp environment consists of seven distinct biotic habitats: coast redwood/mixed evergreen forest, white alder riparian woodland, herbaceous vegetation, aquatic habitat, bare alluvium, bare ground, and Sur Complex bedrock.:7 The camp is accessed via the narrow and winding Palo Colorado Road, 7.6 miles (12.2 km) from the coast. Some of the redwoods in the vicinity of the camp were planted between 1910 and 1921.
Nearby Pico Blanco mountain, Spanish for "White Peak," is one of the most immediately recognizable peaks on the Central California coast. The native Esselen people revered the peak as a sacred mountain from which all life originated. They believed that three creatures—the eagle, coyote and the hummingbird—rode out the Great Flood atop the mountain and went on to create the world. It bears a distinctive white limestone cap visible from California's Highway 1. The limestone deposit is made up of two large, high-grade limestone bodies known as the Pico Blanco body and the Hayfield body. It is the only high-grade deposit on the Pacific Coast outside Alaska within three miles of potential marine transportation. Reserves have been estimated to be from 600 million:46 to a billion tons, reportedly the largest in California, and the largest west of the Rocky Mountains. The Granite Rock Company of Watsonville, California bought the property and mineral rights to Pico Blanco in 1963. Limestone is a key ingredient in concrete and Graniterock obtained a permit in 1983 from the U.S. Forest Service to dig a 5 acres (2.0 ha) open pit mine. The California Coastal Commission intervened, requesting that the company also file for a permit with them. The deposit lies partly within and partly outside the national forest,:46 complicating administration of the mining rights. The company refused to comply with the Commission's request and instead filed a lawsuit that eventually went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where the mining plan was narrowly defeated.:282 Graniterock still owns the property.
The Little Sur River basin climate, protected for the most part from coastal fog by Pico Blanco, is characterized by hot, dry summers and rainy, mild winters. Annual temperatures average 50 °F (10 °C) to 65 °F (18 °C). Annual precipitation ranges from 10 to 50 inches (250 to 1,300 mm), with a pronounced summer drought. This interior is hotter than the coastal region and receives less moisture from fog in summer. Severe spring rains have caused mud slides on steep slopes above roads near the hair-pin turns, which closed the road into the Boy Scout camp briefly during the spring of 1967 and 1969.
Fire has always been part of the Little Sur River landscape. In 1894 most of what is now the Monterey Ranger District, including the Little Sur River watershed, was burned by a fire that was unchecked for weeks. In October, 1905 another fire raged for more than a month, consuming all of the Palo Colorado and Pico Blanco area. Surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness, the camp has been endangered by fire several times. The Molera Fire in 1972 threatened the camp, and the U.S. Army dispatched 10 M-809 6x6 5-ton troop carriers to the Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp to evacuate the Scouts should it become necessary. In August, 1977, the Marble-Cone Fire burned to the vicinity of the camp but did not destroy any buildings. In 2008, the Basin Complex fire forced the Council to evacuate the camp. The fire eventually burned entirely around the camp, which was successfully defended by Red Truck Wildfire based in Boise, ID, assisted by a California Department of Forestry Hotshot crew, CalFire, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and other crews. Only a portion of the water system piping and the outlying ranger's cabin were destroyed. Trees were also damaged throughout camp and loosened soil caused loose rock to fall on roads and hiking trails. The camp was closed and the campers were diverted to Boulder Creek Scout Reservation in Santa Cruz. The camp was reopened on June 20, 2009.
Dam and fish ladder installation
The council built a seasonal, 11 feet (3.4 m) high, 75 feet (23 m) long concrete flash board dam on the Little Sur River in 1955.:4 When filled each summer, the dam creates a small recreational reservoir about 2 acres (0.81 ha) in size.
Steelhead trout in river
New regulations were enacted in 2001 that protected the endangered Southern Steelhead trout and required the state to inspect all recreational summer dams. In July 2001, Jonathan Ambrose, a fisheries service biologist, visited the camp and told camp officials that trout in the Little Sur River could be harmed if the dam provided insufficient flow downstream. In April 2002, the Council had only filed a partial application to fill the dam. The California Department of Fish and Game told the Monterey Bay Area Council they could not fill the dam until the permit was complete, an environmental review was conducted, and a site visit was made.
Dam filling de-waters river
The Boy Scout Council wanted to fill the dam in time for their short, three-week summer camping season. When Fish and Game would not make an exception, the Council contacted California State Senator Bruce McPherson, Vice-Chairman of the California State Senate Environmental Quality Committee, who called the head of Fish and Game, Robert Hight. On June 3, the Monterey County Herald ran a story titled, "Scouts' summer fun dries up." A Department of Fish and Game deputy director contacted the supervisor of the individual charged with enforcing the permit, and soon afterward Fish and Game changed its mind and allowed the council to fill the dam without the required permits.
On July 8, 2002, the camp staff began installing the flash boards to fill the dam. A fisheries service special agent videotaped the flash board installation and found the Council did not have the required water flow gauge installed and had not retained a biologist to assist with the installation. The camp staff initially indicated they would take a week to fill the dam, although an unnamed parent told the agent that the dam would be filled in one day, as usual. Two days later, in violation of the agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service, an unidentified camp staff member filled the 6 feet (1.8 m) deep dam in less than one day. The agent returned later in the day and found in the river bed below the dam 30 recently killed steelhead, stranded and suffocated. He reported that more were likely killed but had been eaten by raccoons and birds. The Assistant Council Executive commented, "Why the fish died is anybody's guess."
The agent observed that the knife gate—an opening at the base of the dam that was supposed to stay open to permit continued stream flow—was shut. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parent agency of the fisheries service, asked the Scouts to stop using the dam until they modified it to meet current standards and obtained the required permits. They told the Council it could face a fine of up USD $396,000 for violating the Endangered Species Act. After intervention by Representative Sam Farr, a recognized pro-environment legislator endorsed by the Sierra Club Political Committee, the Fisheries Service retreated from preventing the Scouts from operating the dam. Seven years after the fact, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about the episode.
Council modifies dam
In June 2003, the Scouts agreed to install a fish ladder, modify the dam's spillway, educate Scouts at camp about endangered species, and enhance the stream bed habitat for fish. Instead of paying a fine, in 2006 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Council paid more than USD $1 million dollars to have a custom fish ladder built.
The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America praised the Monterey Bay Area Council's success at getting the fish ladder constructed. "Additional donations from leaders in the construction industry to the Monterey Bay Area Council in 2006 also included the new Hayward Lodge and fish ladder at Camp Pico Blanco." Don Chapin, a long-time supporter of the Monterey Bay Area Council, was the honoree at a 2006 dinner cited as part of the campaign. The fish ladder is a unique design that had not been used in the United States beforehand. It was designed by Swanson Hydrology + Geomorphology and built by Don Chapin Company.
Environmental activists accused the council of using political pull to avoid the fines. McPherson and Farr confirmed that the Council requested that they contact regulators. Granite Construction, whose president David H. Watts is a member of the council board, gave USD $35,000 to McPherson. He also received USD $5,000 from Chapin Construction, headed by Donald Chapin. Rep. Sam Farr attended Pico Blanco Scout Reservation as a boy and his father Fred Farr contributed to the camp's development. When asked about the dam and its impact on the river, Farr stated that the dam has been there for almost 50 years. "The rules had changed and nobody knew what the rules would be," he said. "All the Boy Scouts asked is how to operate the dam properly." When asked about the influence of the USD $2000 campaign contribution he received from Granite Construction in 2006, he replied, "That's the analogy that I suggested was insulting. It was like somebody on the PTA gave Sam Farr a contribution."
Camp debt contributes to merger
In December 2012, the Santa Clara Council and the Monterey Bay Area Council were reunited after being separate councils since 1933. The merger announcement cited the expense of building the fish ladder and the Hayward Lodge Dining Hall, resulting in about $1 million in debt, as contributing to the council's financial difficulties and making it difficult to continue operations.
The area near the camp has always been sparsely occupied. The land is mostly steep, rocky, semi-arid except for the narrow canyons, and inaccessible, making long-term habitation a challenge. The area was first occupied by the Esselen American Indians who harvested acorns on the nearby mountain slopes. A large boulder with a dozen or more deep mortar bowls worn into it, known as a bedrock mortar, is located in Apple Tree Camp on the southwest slope of Devil's Peak, north of the Pico Blanco Scout Reservation. The holes were hollowed out over many generations by Indians who used it to grind the acorns into flour. Other mortar rocks have also been found within the Boy Scout camp at campsites 3 and 7, and slightly upstream from campsite 12, while a fourth is found on a large rock in the river, originally above the river, between campsites 3 and 4. Much of the native Indian population had been forced into the Spanish mission system by about 1822, when most of the interior villages within the current Los Padres National Forest were uninhabited.
When the Big Sur area became part of Mexico along with the rest of California and gained independence from Spain in 1821, the Boy Scout camp area was on the border of Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito land grant to the north and Rancho El Sur to the south.
Other early homesteaders in the Palo Colorado Canyon region included Thomas W. Allen, 1891, Isaac N. Swetnam, 1894, Harry E. Morton, 1896, Samuel L. Trotter, 1901, Abijah C. Robbins, 1901, and Antare P. Lachance, 1904. Swetnam bought the Notley home at the mouth of Palo Colorado Canyon and also constructed a small cabin on the Little Sur River at the site of the future Pico Blanco camp. The original Protestant Chapel was built around the Swetnam cabin in 1955.
In October, 1905 the land that now makes up the Los Padres National Forest, including the South Fork and portions of the upper reaches of the North Fork of the Little Sur River watershed, were withdrawn from public settlement by the United States Land Office, In January 1908, 39 sections of land, totaling 25,000 acres (10,000 ha), were added to the Monterey National Forest by President Theodore Roosevelt in a presidential proclamation. This included five sections of land east and north of the current site of Pico Blanco Scout Reservation.
From 1927 to 1934, area Boy Scouts from the Santa Clara, San Benito and Monterey Bay Council #55 camped at Camp Totocano, located in Swanton, north of Davenport in Santa Cruz county. In April, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, the Monterey Bay Area Council was organized without camping facilities or suitable funds. In 1934, a makeshift Camp Wing was built within Big Sur State Park, but it was abandoned after the 1937 summer camping season. Camp Esselen was constructed the next year at another location within the Big Sur State Park. This site was improved until 1945, when limitations of the site, closeness to public camping facilities, and jurisdictional conflicts between the Scouts and the state forced the council to request reimbursement from the state for USD $8000 in improvements. The council continued to use the camp through August 1953. In 1952, construction was begun on Camp Pico Blanco, and in 1954 with the opening of Pico Blanco Scout Reservation, Camp Esselen was finally closed. The Pico Blanco Scout Reservation is the oldest Boy Scout camp on the California Central Coast.
Land purchase and sale
On July 23, 1948, the council purchased the property, originally 1,445 acres (585 ha), from the Hearst Sunical Land and Packing Company for USD $20,000. On September 9, 1948, Albert M. Lester of Carmel obtained a grant for the council of USD $20,000 from William Hearst through the Hearst Foundation of New York City, offsetting the cost of the purchase. The council spent about USD $500,000 in improvements, including USD $200,000 to build a 8 miles (13 km) road into the camp area. Road construction was begun in 1950 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers from a local area on Palo Colorado Road known as "The Hoist" to Bottcher's Gap (2,050 feet (620 m)), the site of former homesteader John Bottcher's cabin in 1885-86.[Notes 1] The road into the central camp area was completed in the summer of 1951. Construction of the central buildings wsa begun in 1953 and the camp was dedicated on May 31, 1954. In 1963 the Council Executive estimated that buying the land at that time would cost the council over USD $1 million, or nearly $51,742,500 in today's dollars. The road from The Hoist to Bottcher's Gap was later turned over to Monterey County. The remaining 3.7 miles (6.0 km) miles of road into camp includes 2 miles (3.2 km) miles of narrow dirt road with four hair-pin switchbacks.
In the 1960s, another piece of land in the vicinity of Dani Ridge on the northeast slope of Pico Blanco, totaling 80 acres (32 ha), was donated to the council. This steeply sloped piece of property included Redwood trees up to 11 feet (3.4 m) in diameter and raised the total acreage to 1,525 acres (617 ha). The original camp property extended about 2 miles (3.2 km) southward along the Little Sur River, almost to Fish Camp, just short of Jackson Camp.
The Council sold 245 acres (99 ha) to the federal government for about USD $100,000 shortly after the 1977 Marble Cone fire. It later sold about 525 acres (212 ha) in the 1980s to the federal government for an unknown amount, reducing the camp to its present size of about 800 acres (320 ha). In 1990, the Monterey Bay Area Council executive board voted to sell the entire camp, resulting in considerable controversy and opposition. No buyer was found, and in 1992, the executive board voted in closed session to sell half of the camp property for $3 million, but once again no offers were received.
50th anniversary observation
The camp celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004 and issued a series of commemorative patches for campers, staff, and donors. The patch contained images referencing both the Order of the Arrow and White Stag Leadership Development Program, acknowledging the important part both programs have played in the history of the camp.
Esselen Lodge service at camp
The Esselen Lodge of the Order of the Arrow was named for the native Esselen American Indian tribe who first inhabited the area. The lodge was organized in the council on November 23, 1957 by George Ross, Ray Sutliff—who designed the lodge patch—and a third man whose last name was Alcorn. George Ross was also the first Lodge Adviser and first adult Vigil recipient in Esselen Lodge. In 1972-73, Lodge Chief Tom Quarterero built a sign for the camp at the mouth of Palo Colorado Road on Highway 1. The Lodge has supported camping in the council by writing and publishing the Where to go Camping booklet for many years. It has also produced slide shows promoting the camp. Lodge members and leaders have repeatedly served on camp staff for many years.
Bill Lidderdale, a district executive in the Monterey Bay Area Council during the 1960s, was the Esselen Lodge staff adviser for several years. Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca, formerly a member of Troop 428 in San Juan Bautista, credited Lidderdale as the reason he became a Scout executive. "I just worshiped this guy. He was my hero. He told me about professional Scouting and said he thought I would do a good job." Mazzuca later achieved the Brotherhood Honor as a member of Esselen Lodge during the 1960s and served on Pico Blanco camp staff for two summers. The Lodge observed its 50th Ordeal at Pico Blanco camp from August 17–19, 2007.
Campfire bowl rebuilt
During 2009, the Lodge undertook a $40,000 project to rebuild the campfire bowl at Pico Blanco camp. Originally constructed in 1954, the original half-round redwood logs used as seating had deteriorated and rotted away in many locations. Lodge member Mark Ellis drew plans to replace and expand the seating using steel posts. The Lodge organized a number of work parties to excavate an expanded area for the campfire. They built and installed about 275 steel support posts to terrace the fire bowl and permanently support new seating. They also rebuilt the fence behind the campfire rings and the campfire rings themselves. The expanded amphitheater was rededicated in a ceremony attended by Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca on July 16, 2011 and dedicated in his name.
Original site of White Stag Program
During the summer of 1958, Monterey Bay Area Council Training Chairman Béla H. Bánáthy experimented with the idea of training boys in leadership skills during a week of summer camp at Pico Blanco Scout Reservation. The Council actively supported his experiment. Assistant Scout Executive, Esselen Lodge Staff Adviser, and Camp Director Bill Lidderdale served as staff advisor to the White Stag Leadership Development Program that Bánáthy founded. The council's program was so successful that it drew attention from the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1964, National BSA executives, volunteers, and board members attended a meeting at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. As a result of this meeting, the National Council began a thorough study of the Monterey Bay Area Council's program.
Up to this point, junior leaders training had been focused on Scoutcraft skills and use of the Patrol Method. The National Council concluded that offering leadership development to youth was a unique opportunity for Scouting to provide a practical benefit to youth and would add substantial support to Scouting's character development goals. By the end of 1974, both the adult Wood Badge and junior leader training had undergone fundamental shifts, focusing on teaching specific leadership skills instead of Scoutcraft, outdoor living skills, and the Patrol Method. National council professional staff visited the council and Pico Blanco Scout Reservation several times to view the White Stag program in action and to evaluate the council program's success.
In 1975, volunteer Scouters leading the White Stag program invited Explorer-age girls 14 years of age or older to take part in the program. In the next few years, Girl Scouts were also invited. In 1978, the Monterey Bay Area Council Executive decided they were uncomfortable with a coed program and refused to allow the volunteer Scouters to rent Pico Blanco Scout Reservation the next summer. The White Stag program was held for the next 17 years at various camps in Northern California. In 1994, Council Training Chairman Steve Cardinalli approached the Council Executive with the idea of allowing local White Stag alumni and volunteer Scouters to run both the official National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) and a White Stag program at the camp. The council embraced the program once again until 2005 when a new Council Executive decided the Council would only offer the nationally sanctioned NYLT program. The Monterey-area Scout volunteers incorporated the non-profit White Stag Academy to administer the program locally. The leadership program continues to sponsor a Boy Scout troop and a Venturing Crew in the Monterey Council, and is headquartered at the Paul Sujan Scout Lodge on the Presidio of Monterey, California. Summer camp is usually held in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. As of 2011 the program had taught leadership skills to approximately 20,500 largely Monterey County youth. A second organization, the White Stag Association, continues to sponsor a smaller summer camp program in the San Francisco East Bay. Its camp is usually held at Scout camps in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Notable camp attendees
- Sherman Comings, a descendant of a family who purchased property near Bottcher's Gap in 1927, says his family spelled the name "Boucher."
- Noack, Dick. "Merger Letter". Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Elliot, Analise (2005). Hiking & Backpacking Big Sur: A Complete Guide to the Trails of Big Sur, Ventana Wilderness, and Silver Peak Wilderness (1st ed. ed.). Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press. ISBN 978-0-89997-326-5.
- Rosenfield, Seth (February 1, 2009). "Political pull helped fix Scouts' dam problem". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- "1954 Summer Camp Bulletin". Salinas, California: Monterey Bay Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. April 21, 1954. Retrieved November 10, 2009.[dead link]
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