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Circle V Ranch reopens after fire damage, welcomes first wave of campers on Friday

Circle V Ranch reopens after fire damage, welcomes first wave of campers on Friday

For the first time since the Whittier fire burned through the Circle V Ranch Camp two years ago in the hills above Cachuma Lake, the popular camp will bring in the 2019 summer season by welcoming a new wave of campers this week.

The popular camp has officially reopened after the July 8, 2017 Whittier fire damaged its health lodge, craft cabin and water treatment facility and forced its two-year closure.

Camp Community Relations Coordinator Laura Kath said that local volunteers and community members came together, investing their hard work and fundraising efforts to rebuild and make the reopening a reality.

"It's what we call faith through fire," Kath said.

On Friday afternoon, boys and girls aged 7-17 will celebrate the camp's reopening and report to their bunks, where they will trade in their electronic devices for a full week of nature immersion. 

Founded by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council of Los Angeles in 1945 and located on its current 30-acre lot nestled in the Los Padres National Forest in 1990, Circle V offers children across the region an enriching outdoor experience that helps them build self-esteem and an appreciation of others and nature.

"Circle V Ranch Camp Director Ray Lopez and his entire staff are preparing for the arrival of 115 campers on July 12 for a sold-out session No. 1, themed space week," Kath said.

To exemplify the camp's theme, special guest Tom Nolan will return to camp and facilitate interactive experiments with campers, Kath said.

Nolan attended Circle V Ranch Camp as a boy, and is currently a “satellite jockey” at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mapping the lunar surface for a future landing site. 

Some activities Nolan led at a 2016 Circle V summer session included a star watching party and various demonstrations that touch on elemental chemistry, polymers and thermal engineering to aerodynamics, robotics and Newton’s Third Law.

To ensure campers get the most out of their five-night, six-day camping experience, there is no TV, radio or internet access, according to Circle V rules. 

"It is the only traditional sleep-over summer camp in Santa Barbara County," said Kath, camp community relations coordinator since 2011.

Supervised outdoors activities to be enjoyed include archery, arts and crafts, hiking, swimming, basketball, campfires, skits and singing.

Campers will sleep in wood cabins and enjoy three nutritious meals each day served family style in the Dining Lodge, which will offer plenty of food and camaraderie.

"It truly is a magical place," Kath said.

Sessions 1-3 are sold out. Registration is open until July 18 for summer session four, which runs Saturday, Aug. 3 to Thursday, Aug. 8, and is themed "Talent Show Week."

The Circle V Ranch Camp fee for six days/five nights including lodging, all meals, activities, recreation and supervised fun is $600 per child. “Camperships” (scholarships made by donations) are available for qualified campers. For information about fees and camperships, visit

To register, contact 323-224-6213 to receive the Camp application or download forms at

Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News. 


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