Arroyo Grande residents protest potential sale of historic camp



History and commerce are hurtling toward a head-on collision in Arroyo Grande, and the city’s residents want their elected officials to know they’ll take history over commerce.

A total of 15 residents spoke at the Arroyo Grande City Council’s Aug. 23 regular meeting, urging the council members to intervene in the possible sale of Camp Arroyo Grande. 

“This camp must be saved,” Ken Miles, executive director for Camp Fire told the council members. “And it must be saved on your watch as the City Council.”

The history of the 29-acre tract of land that makes up the campground dates back to the late 1800s and was the site of the city’s first Methodist church. Today, Camp Fire, which runs an annual outdoor camp for young children during the summer, utilizes it. The nearly 120-year-old site was passed down from various owners over the years and is currently owned by the California Pacific Conference of the Methodist Church, which put the property up for sale earlier this year.

While concerned residents believe that the site is historic, the church, through its attorneys, has vowed to fight any historic designation from the city, citing an exemption from such designation under state law. The church’s stance didn’t appear to stop Miles or the other speakers from making their case to the council.

“Some say this is history for sale,” Miles said. “Though it may be their right, it’s not right.”

Other speakers included parents who attended camp at the site as children, and two young children who’d recently attended camp. Many urged the council to allow the property to remain zoned as open space, and keep any future use of it open to public. Not all the speakers were in favor of stopping the sale. Steven Talent, who worked as a site director for Camp Arroyo Grande for 15 years, said he believed decision to sell the property wasn’t arrived at lightly, and that it wasn’t right for the council to try and block the sale.

“You cannot do that,” Talent said. “It’s like any of you sitting on the council being told you cannot sell your houses.”

For its part, the city acknowledged the concerns over the potential sale of the property. Mayor Jim Hill said the city had received several letters and emails on the issue. Acting City Manager Geoff English said the city was pursing negotiations with the church, which was open to delaying any demolition on the property while the city tries to “work something out”.

“There are efforts being undertaken,” English said. “There are limitations on what we can and cannot do.”

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