Shootings at public and private schools, the kidnapping of innocent children, children murdered, the molestation and abuse of children. Fences, security guards, metal detectors … Today, most, if not all, schools and day care centers have a fence around the property intended to keep the children in and the public out. “Stranger Danger” is a bona fide, legitimate threat to the safety and lives of our young people. Unfortunately, these are the times we live in and above all, we each are called to nurture and protect our children.
The safety and well-being of children is a responsibility we at Idyllwild Pines Camp and Conference Center takes very seriously. Mothers and fathers throughout Southern California and beyond put their trust in Idyllwild Pines believing we will take care of their children and we must protect them from any possible threat or potential predator.
This is our camp directive and the reason for our prohibiting public access on Idyllwild Pines Camp.
Below are just a few of the issues we have dealt with in recent weeks and months: In late April, for two weekends in a row, we had more than 400 kids on campus. During one of those weekends, just after having had breakfast, as the children moved through the camp heading toward their next event, a host of bicyclists rode through the middle of campus at warp speed. They rode through our Meadow Camp residential area; children scurrying out of the way, as they exited the camp on Idyllbrook.
Most every day people drive onto campus, park their cars, and take various dogs through the camp and out onto our large grassy field — regardless of whether guests, children typically, are playing in that same field.
Most afternoons, a large number of people and their dogs can be found on the far side of camp where we have our tent-camping area, the dogs are running off leash, doing what humans want dogs to do when they go outside. This end of camp is an area where children pitch tents, cook, and camp out of doors.
Six weekends in a row the dormitories in Meadow Camp, where children were staying, were broken into while the kids were in sessions in other areas of the camp. On several occasions after our guests have retired for the night, meeting halls have been broken into and media and computer equipment stolen. For several nights early in the winter, someone broke into unoccupied dormitories and stayed the night leaving cigarette butts, beer cans and birth control devices behind.
And, we’ve had our administrative offices broken into this year.
Beer cans, almost naked, disoriented men sitting on picnic tables, go-cart riders, people with multiple dogs on and off leashes, are but a few of the struggles we’ve been faced with.
I attended a discussion with local officials and the Sheriff’s Department not long ago on a Saturday afternoon to learn that crime has increased substantially on the Hill. Idyllwild Pines has been hit hard by theft and vandalism. We have free-standing games and activities on the camp that get vandalized as well as signs and lighting that are regularly destroyed. Just last month one of our golf carts was stolen — last seen driving down the mountain early in the morning. Seriously, it was being driven down the Hill.
Some who move through the camp are courteous, many, however, are not. Some who walk through the camp are good, solid residents of Idyllwild; but many are here temporarily, shopping, hiking and biking, enjoying the Hill for a day or a weekend. Everyone who works here at Idyllwild Pines has undergone an extensive background check as required by the state and our camping accreditation agencies. Those unauthorized people who walk, bike, or run through the camp pose a significant risk to our kids and to the multiple staff members who call the camp home. We simply can no longer tolerate this risk.
Idyllwild Pines adheres to all applicable national laws, state codes, heath department requirements, and county and local codes and ordinances in every area of our operation. We are also rigorously monitored by the standards established through our accreditation with the American Camp Association and the Christian Camp and Conference Association. All in an effort to protect the millions of kids who go to camp across America each year. Here at Idyllwild Pines we host more than 9,000 campers — children, teens and young adults — each year. It is our responsibility to protect them from harm to the extent possible.
Yes, unfortunately we are required to enforce the actuality that we are a private camp located on private property and eliminate access to the camp by the general public, which will reduce the risk of harm to our young guests. First and foremost we do this because we are committed to the protection of our children; and secondarily, to remain an accredited organization within the camping industry.
Idyllwild Pines has been, and remains, a vital part of this community. For more than 89 years we have been on this site, our contribution and involvement in the community of Idyllwild has likely ebbed and flowed. These days, it is our goal — as stated in our Operational Plan and budgeted for in our annual budget — to be fully integrated into this beautiful mountain resort town by continuing to host the Firefighters’ annual spaghetti dinner, the skate park, and the dog park (within the last two months when asked, we took over the trash responsibilities at the dog park at no charge because the town had no one else).
We provided meals during the building of the community park, welcomed craftsmen and artists onto the property offering a place for them to create their projects. We provide space in several areas of the camp to house and store critical disaster preparedness materials and supplies and remain prepared to feed many in the event of a disaster. We intentionally keep our business contracts and purchases here “on the Hill” supporting local businesses in every way we possibly can. Idyllwild Pines Camp and Conference Center is always looking for ways to be better partners with the community, and to contribute more and more to Idyllwild. While we can’t be involved in everything, we will consider any suggestions members of the community may have.
Hopefully, after reading this letter, you will sense our hearts and our desire not to exclude the community, but rather to protect the next generation; growing them, nurturing them and sheltering them from harm. Our motivation is pure, and we ask for unity and understanding from our community as we endeavor to fulfill our purpose, while presenting a safe environment for children to experience camp, nature, and this creation fashioned for them by their creator.
Martha M. Snyder
Idyllwild Pines Camp and Conference Center