An EHC contractor walks down the hill in front of what is left of the pool house.

Reenvisioning Enchanted Hills Camp

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A group of teens fish on the lake in a small boat.
A group of teens fish on the lake in a small boat during Teen Session 2018.

Eighteen months after the fierce Napa wildfires we are now on the road to build camp back better and stronger than ever!

As our community knows, in a single afternoon, half of Enchanted Hills burned to the ground or experienced fire and smoke damage. Luckily no lives were lost. However, many of our structures and beautiful nature throughout camp were lost. Luckily all of the staff and campers at Enchanted Hills were able to evacuate, although some lost all of their belongings. The goats had their own adventure: their paddock was left wide open so they could escape, and they took refuge in a place they’d longed to get access to for years: the dining hall. The LightHouse is forever grateful to the many firefighters who worked around the clock to protect as much of camp as possible. 

Since then, so many of our friends, community groups and businesses which support Enchanted Hills Camp have responded with outpourings of support. In addition to countless individuals,  volunteers from AmeriCorps, Volkswagen America, The Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa, XL Construction, Napa Rotary and so many others have donated their time and dollars. Donations of all amounts are vital as we need them to rebuild millions of dollars’ worth of cabins, buildings and infrastructure.  If you would like to be a part of this ever, click here. click here to visit our donation page. One easy way to support Enchanted Hills is to donate items we need by using our Enchanted Hills Camp Wish List, through Amazon.com.  

Founded in 1950 by blind leader Rose Resnick, Enchanted Hills was the first camp for the blind West of the Mississippi, a place for blind children to explore, thrive and gain confidence. As we approach next year’s 70th birthday of Enchanted Hills we tallied its history and were amazed to learn that so far, the camp has touched over 30,000 lives.

Over the past year, our staff has begun working with celebrated architects Peter Pfau and Helen Schneider to re-envision Enchanted Hills Camp for the next century. What can we design, using all we’ve learned over 70 years, for this idyllic place for people who are blind to explore, learn and gather? Our team has gotten thousands of responses to survey questions, focus groups of campers, teachers, and rank-and-file blind people who love camp and have creative suggestions for EHC 2.0. We are in awe of the engagement and outpouring of support on so many levels and thrilled to see the transformations happening at camp every day.

This spring a heartening series of construction projects are producing great outcomes.

  • We’ve poured a new deck around our swimming pool and built a much-enlarged poolside shade structure, now ready for campers this summer. We are tearing down much of the unsightly board fence around the pool and building an attractive open and transparent fence around the pool.
  • We’ve replaced key culverts around our lake, allowing us to handle the increased storm flows after the fire-related erosion. We have also taken time to remove much silt which has threatened our lake’s beauty and usability.
  • We’ve completed a first-phase rebuild of our half-moon circle fire area which will allow it to be used comfortably by this summer’s campers.
  • We’ve completed a full makeover of the Kiva interior, now featuring new paint and handsome wainscoting.
  • We’ve replaced the smoke-damaged ceiling in the dining hall with something much in demand – a real acoustic ceiling which will tame the loud echoes and noise of its previous design.
  • We’ve painted, sanded, stained and spiffed up thousands of square feet of buildings and fencing, giving camp a tidy and well-maintained image which has long-timers saying it’s more beautiful than ever.
  • We’ve rebuilt the seating at Wing Creek Chapel and improved the pedestrian access to it. This allows us to use the space this summer while larger improvements are designed and built for next year.
  • We’re completing the design of our new pool bathhouse and changing area, with private restrooms and changing areas, and supporting, for the first time, solar hot water for showers and pool heating.
  • Our main storage barn, so essential for housing every tool and material used by our staff and volunteers, will be finished in June. The handsome 1,500 square foot barn now offers a place for staff to coordinate repair and building projects and connects with our emerging new entrance area.

Our extended blind community isn’t waiting for camp’s reconstruction to be finished.  Only eight months after the fire we hosted 11 summer sessions, and this year we are back bigger and better than ever!

This summer, Enchanted Hills will be able to offer eleven sessions for blind and low vision people of all ages from Family Camp to Hacking to Woodworking. Campers are staying in temporary bungalows while we plan and rebuild.

 We would like to invite you to come celebrate the legacy and rebounding of Enchanted Hills at our annual music concert on Saturday August 10 at 4 p.m. You will be able to see the productions of blind music students concluding Music Camp and be able to tour the new construction at camp.  Contact Andrea Vecchione, Event Manager, at 415-694-7311 avecchione@lighthouse-sf.org to reserve your spot, or to help out.

Together, we all can be a part of the rebuilding of Enchanted Hills. Together, we will continue to rise from the ashes because, as we all have said for 70 years, ‘EHC is the place to be!