The first phase of the renovation of Camp Mokitana – the old Camp Fire Girls camp located in River Bend (formerly Goethe) Park – was celebrated when the camp’s amphitheater was dedicated in memory of Rotarian Chandler Copps on Sept. 15.
Dignitaries from the county, Rotary District 5180 and SaveMart Supermarkets were on hand for the dedication – as were members of the American River Parkway Foundation, which had voted just the night before to become partners in the restoration of the facility.
Located in the heart of River Bend Park, Camp Mokitana’s 10 acres are in the heart of the bend of the river. In effect, the rest of the park “barbells” around it. The restoration of the old camp by the Rotarians and their partners will restore this prime property to the Sacramento community, for use by scouting groups, Boys and Girls clubs, church youth groups and other family groups.
Rotary District 5180 and SaveMart have jointly committed to raise $500,000 to the restoration effort over a five-year period.
The camp site is significant and holds great sentimental importance to generations of Sacramento area children – now adults – who attended summer Camp Fire camps at Camp Mokitana for well over a half century.
The property was originally gifted to the Camp Fire Girls by Charles M. Goethe, a strong believer in conservation. The Sacramento-Sierra Camp Fire Council ran decades of successful day camp and overnight camp programs for Sacramento Valley youth there.
When the council closed in 2008, the property reverted back to Sacramento County – with the provision that it remain a camp for youth in the region, and that any future Camp Fire youth would have access to the camp.
At the dedication, eyes grew misty as a Dutchman’s Pipevine butterfly flew over the heads of those dedicating the renovated camp amphitheater in memory of Rotarian Chandler Copps, who saw the need to restore this resource to the community – and took action to make it happen. The butterfly’s caterpillar, called “Charley” by campers, can only survive on Dutchman’s Pipevine, which grows abundantly at Camp Mokitana. It is a precious habitat.
“We’ve become friends, working together on this project,” said Don Bean, director of community relations for SaveMart Supermarkets. “Our primary giving interests center around health, wellness and feeding the hungry. This project really fit into ‘health and wellness’ for young people and families. We’ve been here four years and we are doing our best to get involved with the community. We are proud to be working with Rotary, because they always take on the tough projects.”
“I want to acknowledge and thank to Rotary and SaveMart and others for supporting the renovation,” said County Supervisor Don Nottoli. “We now have an opportunity with a strong local cadre involved in the restoration and improvement, and hopefully once it is completed it will be an area in the American River Parkway where people can come enjoy the natural setting and get a better sense of what a crown jewel this really is. We tend to forget that young people in the area don’t get to experience something like this.”
“We are over 40 Rotary clubs in the area and almost 2,000 Rotarians strong,” said Jack Taylor, District 5180 governor. “Rotary has been successful because of the partnerships we’ve formed with SaveMart and others. Our theme for this year is ‘Share Your Rotary Passion.’ This is one example of the many, many ways Rotarians share their passion for the community.”
Elaine Copps, Chandler’s widow, perhaps summarized things best at the dedication.
“Not too long ago, I found a note in Chandler’s desk, in his hand,” she said. “It said: You do not get love. You give love. And it returns the favor.”