SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Two years after it was essentially destroyed, Rancho Alegre is coming back to life.
"We have a lot of construction going on,” said Carlos Cortez, Los Padres Council Scout Executive. "Seeing all the tractors and all the hard labor going into this and actually seeing movement and land being moved, earth being moved, it's super exciting because that's a landmark of us reconstructing and coming back."
In July 2017, the Whittier Fire burned 90 percent of the buildings on the 215-acre property that's located across Highway 154 from Lake Cachuma.
For decades, Rancho Alegre has served as a popular camp for area Scouts.
Since 1952, it has been owned and operated by the Los Padres Council, Boy Scouts of America.
However, the beautiful, oak-studded property has hosted more than just Scouts through the years.
Since 1985, it's been the home of The Outdoor School, which has served a science camp for area students.
"Thousands of kids come here, not only to have their first outdoor experience with nature, but really to have some self growth, self confidence and become the leaders of our future in our communities,” Cortez said. "Most of them are impoverished kids that never had an outdoor experience and they come up here to have their first live outdoor experience with us, in a safe environment that nurtures growth, health and also promotes them being in touch with nature and being a proponent of nature."
With the camp damaged, it's left a void in the community.
However, Scout leadership and community stakeholders have been hard at work ever since the fire to try and rebuild Rancho Alegre as quickly as possible.
To help make it happen, a public financial campaign has been ongoing.
"The Phoenix Campaign is to raise funds to in support of Rancho Alegre, to rebuild all of our infrastructure and buildings and be able to deliver the Outdoor School and Scouting program to valleys and communities on the Central Coast,” said Cortez.
The overall cost of the rebuild project is $15.5 million.
According to Cortez, insurance is providing about $9.5 million, which leaves about a $6 million gap.
Helping the cause is a major contribution just announced by the Los Padres Council that has been made by the Berti Family of Santa Barbara.
The Berti Family is donating $1 million, which that are doing to honor the late Stan Bartlett.
"They want their recognition to go to an old time scout that we used to have that invested a majority of his life to Rancho Alegre,” Cortez said. “Stan Barlett spent many years as an Eagle Scout and actually when he was here, he was responsible for building about 50 percent of the structures here, so the Berti wants this place to be named after Stan Bartlett."
With several million dollars already in hand, construction has started on various infrastructure projects around the property.
“We're still waiting for our building permits, but we have some of our grading permits in, so we're putting in water lines, rebuild paths for all the buildings, so we're making a lot of progress towards the building and reconstruction of the entire program and the buildings that go along with it,” said Cortez.
Cortez said the plan is to have Scouts return for camping by Spring 2020 and for the reopening of The Outdoor School by October 2020.
The Phoenix Campaign still has a few more million dollars to raise before it reaches its goal.
"We have a long ways to go,” said The Outdoor School Property Director Glen Goddard. “We’ve raised a lot of money, but still need the rest of it so we can complete the project."
For more information about the campaign, visit the Los Padres Council website.