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With debris removed, Upward Bound prepares to welcome back campers

Founded in 1978, Upward Bound Camp in the Santiam Canyon has been providing educational and recreational opportunities for persons with disabilities to thrive outside of their usual routines and surroundings for decades. Last summer, the camp, located in the city of Gates just south of the Santiam River, was almost completely destroyed in the 2020 Beachie Creek Fire.

Upward Bound Camp Executive Director Diana Turnbull explains:

“We lost basically everything…two out-buildings, our maintenance shed, which had all of our tools and lawnmowers in it. Our bus barn with all of our activity and recreation items (our Christmas decorations, our kilns…our van). The gym, which was a very sad loss because it was such a beautiful old building. Our program building, which had all of our activity areas, administrative offices, our nurses’ station and our bunk houses. And we lost our chapel.”

Remarkably, the historic Gates schoolhouse, which houses the camp’s kitchen, and the iconic Jobe Nature Pavilion “did not burn even though they were surrounded by fire.” Everything else was a total loss.

Despite the devastation, Turnbull was determined to hold camp this summer.

“Some of our campers have been coming to camp for decades,” Turnbull noted. They become like a “camp family” she explained as two long-time campers hugged during a camp visit yesterday.

Recognizing the camp’s significant community impact both to its loyal campers and to its seasonal staff, the Debris Management Task Force prioritized the camp’s clean-up operation. And, despite multiple obstacles, including a significant archaeological finding and a slow-moving effort to preserve the bricks from the historic gymnasium (more on those stories to come in future blog posts), the final soil samples came back clean this week and the camp is cleared to begin rebuilding and welcome back campers!

“It is such a gift to have it all cleaned up,” said Turnbull. “I felt like I had room to breathe again once all that debris was cleaned up. It just helped me really envision the possibilities.”

Those possibilities became more of a reality yesterday when a group of about 50 volunteers from the Silverton Apostolic Church and their sister church, the Rittman Apostolic Church in Rittman, Ohio, partook in what Turnbull described with a chuckle as “a good ol’ fashion barn raising…only with tents.”

The group spent the day erecting 18 tents, painting the new swing set, installing a sprinkler system on the newly sodded 10,000 square foot meadow and generally preparing the site to welcome staff and campers.

Yesterday’s effort was one of several volunteer events that have helped get the site ready for the summer camp season. You can follow Upward Bound Camp’s journey and find ways to help on their Facebook page.



Wildfire waste and debris removal

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners to remove hazardous waste, and ash and debris from the 2020 Oregon wildfires safely, efficiently, and as quickly as possible. The Oregon Departments of Transportation, Environmental Quality and Emergency Management are leading the effort, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistance.

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