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City camp seeks more ethnic diversity

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Friday March 02, 2001

During a public hearing at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a Berkeley parent said one of the city’s public summer camps has a registration practice that has resulted in a “lack of diversity.” 

A camp official said the questionable registration practice for Tuolumne Family Camp was instituted as an attempt to keep the camp’s enrollment up. He said that for the first time the camp’s rolls are already full early in the year for the coming summer’s program and that the three-year-old registration practice has already been changed. 

The council held a public hearing Tuesday on raising fees for two of the city’s three summer camps, the Echo Lake Youth Camp and the Berkeley Day Camp. The council approved the fee hikes unanimously with Councilmember Polly Armstrong absent. 

Only one person, Gen Fujioka, spoke during the public hearing, which began at 11 p.m. Fujioka used the opportunity to address the council about the city’s third camp, the Tuolumne Family Camp, which was not being considered for a fee hike. 

According to camp Program Director David Poock, the TFC is attended by children and their parents. The camp, open from June 23 to Aug. 26, provides meals and organizes activities, such as hiking, swimming and festivals. Fees vary depending on Berkeley residency and the age of children. For one adult, one teenager and one child under 10, the cost per day ranges from $141 for residents to $161 for non-residents. 

The camp is located on the south fork of the Tuolumne River about 40 minutes from the valley floor of Yosemite National Park. 

All three of Berkeley’s camps have a policy of giving Berkeley residents preference in registration. According to a staff report, last year Berkeley Day Camp was attended by 90 percent Berkeley residents and Echo Lake Youth Camp had 100 percent resident attendance.  

But at the council meeting, Poock said TFC falls far short of its stated goals with only 46 percent of Berkeley residents attending. 

Fujioka attends the camp with his two children who are nine and 12 years old. He said the registration practices, while probably not discriminatory, favor insiders. 

“When you’re at the camp, there is an apparent lack of diversity,” he said. 

Fujioka said one of the reasons was the practice of allowing families who are attending the camp to sign up for the following year.  

“The camp is a very special place and families from all over the state want to attend,” Fujioka said. “But this year, 92 percent of the places were already reserved (in the summer of 2000) for the following summer. It’s a way non-residents can get around the preference policy.” 

Poock said one reason for the camp’s popularity is that families can attend the camp at the same time as extended family and friends. He said the pre-registration program was put in place to provide a place for families to spend time together with families they know. He said the policy was adopted three years ago to help keep sagging registration up. 

Poock said now that TFC has become so popular they have re-evaluated the policy and have already ended it. 

“We are thinking of having an extended registration period possibly from September to November for Berkeley residents only,” he said. “After that non-residents would be able to register.” 

Poock said the camp wants to recruit more minority families but outreach and advertising campaigns for summer camps aren’t always the best method. “The American Camping Association has done a lot of research and determined only 8 percent of camp enrollment comes from advertising and outreach programs,” He said “92 percent comes from word of mouth.” 

Poock said the more minorities who attend the camp and have a positive experience will result in more diversity attending the camp. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said camp officials have already taken steps to correct the problem. He added that the camp was more diverse 10 years ago.  

“There were things that we used to do that encouraged more diversity in the camp,” he said. “We used to do more outreach.”