New cabins at Camp Chawanakee will make it year-round destination

The Fresno BeeJune 27, 2014 

A cabin to serve as camp office is one of 11 being built by the Boy Scouts' Camp Chawanakee near Shaver Lake.

SEQUOIA COUNCIL

The Boy Scouts are upgrading Camp Chawanakee on Shaver Lake with the construction of 11 log cabins.

The camp, about a mile and a half off Dinkey Creek Road, has been the main summer home of the Sequoia Council Boy Scouts of America since 1947. The Sequoia Council serves Scouts in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties.

More than 4,500 Scouts from California, Nevada and other states visit Camp Chawanakee for summer camps from June to August.

For years Scouts visiting the camp have used canvas wall tents with cots for sleeping. Because the camp sits at 5,200 feet, it shuts down after summer when the lower temperatures and snow arrive.

The new cabins, which cost about $1 million, will have heating — making Camp Chawanakee ready for year-round use for Scouts and other groups.

"This is a major shift ... to be a community resource not just for Scouting, but also for churches and Girl Scout groups and as an environmental school setting," says John Richers, CEO/Scout executive for Sequoia Council Boy Scouts of America.

The cabins are about "50% done," Richers says.

One of the new cabins — to be used as the camp office during the summer and a camping cabin the rest of the year — will be completed in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. July 11.

A barbecue will follow at 5 p.m. Special tours will be available.

Six Elkhorn cabins — 17 feet by 31 feet — are being constructed surrounding Camp Chawanakee's parking area. Each can sleep eight to 10 people.

They offer beds with mattresses, flush toilets, vanities, showers, lights, heating, sitting areas and front porches.

Four Cub cabins — 14 feet by 20 feet — are being built just south of the parking lot. Each has three bunk beds with mattresses to sleep six people. They include lights, heating and front porches.

Both the Elkhorn and Cub cabins will likely be completed by the end of August and available for use in September.

Richers says it is important that Scouting provides opportunities for youths to experience the outdoors in a camp setting.

"Philosophically, our kids these days so desperately need a connection with nature because their digital generation is so engrossed with things electronic," Richers says.

"On Shaver Lake, you can see bald eagles flying. How cool is that for a kid from Fresno to see."

John O'Rourke, Scout leader of Troop 223 in Fresno, says the new cabins will enhance Camp Chawanakee tradition.

"There is a great history and tradition there," says O'Rourke, who was a Boy Scout. "It's neat to see that continue for youth and Scouts."

The Sequoia Council Boy Scouts of America has encouraged troops to help in the cabin construction.

Nearly 40 members of O'Rourke's troop helped in May, using hammers, saws and other tools.

"They picked up the plans and figured out what they needed to do," O'Rourke says.

"It was magical watching the youth roll up their sleeves and own the project. What these cabins do is allow more and different groups to use the facility and see what a jewel it is."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304, rorozco@fresnobee.com or @ronorozco_bee on Twitter.

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