Camp KEEP Celebrates 50 Years  

For the past 50 years, a visit to the Kern Environmental Education Program, or Camp KEEP, has marked the signature field trip during the final year of elementary school. It has become a rite of passage for so many students in dour community — in fact, it’s estimated that more than a quarter million youngsters have benefited from the program over the years.

KEEP was the brainchild of the late Bruce Crawford, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services at the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, who, in 1968, shared his vision that local students should have access to outdoor education opportunities. After much research — under the leadership of then superintendent of schools Harry Blair — KEEP held its first sessions in two locations in April 1969 — one at Camp Condor near Pine Mountain Club and another at Tehachapi Mountain Park. The program was modeled after SCICON — short for Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation — a residential science school near Springville in Tulare County.

In the spring of 1971, KEEP was moved to Hart Flat in the foothills east of Bakersfield where dignitaries gathered to officially dedicate KEEP as the Bruce M. Crawford Outdoor School.

In an article published in the Bakersfield Californian in 1971, Bruce Crawford explained to The Bakersfield Californian that a novel feature of KEEP, is that from the beginning, it was designed with mobility in mind. The program was designed so it could easily be moved from one location to another.

True to its transient nature, in fall 1971, KEEP was re-located to the central coast where it was named KEEP Ocean and operated at a temporary location at Hazard Canyon within the Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County. The program moved to its permanent home nearby in 1972, where it continues to operate today.

Popularity of the program grew and in 1987, a second campus was opened in the Sierra foothills near Glennville. The camp was operated on the grounds of Camp Dickson YMCA. KCSOS purchased the YMCA Dickson Camp in 1990 and officially re-named it after KEEP Sierra.

A third campus — KEEP Cambria — was added in 1992. Because California’s central coast was a more popular destination for local schools, KEEP Sierra was closed in 2003 and programs were condensed to the two coastal campuses.

In August 2018, KEEP Cambria was re-located south to Arroyo Grande and became known as KEEP By-the-Sea.

More information about KEEP’s rich history can be found HERE.

KEEP to celebrate 50 years with evening event, April 27

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Camp KEEP, the KEEP Foundation is hosting its annual Wine Camp for KEEP fundraiser at the Alexander residence, located at 404 Mt. Lowe Drive in Olde Stockdale. The event will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tickets to the event are $50 and include dinner, wine tasting, craft beer, a blind wine pull, a commemorative wine glass, entertainment and a host of opportunity baskets and raffle prizes.

Advance tickets are required and can be purchased at HERE. 

Camp KEEP Timeline:

Spring 1968 — KCSOS enters into a partnership with Tulare County office of Education to allow sixth graders to participate in “Scicon” — short for Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation — a residential science school near Springville in Tulare County. Kern County Assistant Superintendent of Education Services, Bruce Crawford, begins researching and planning for a “Scicon Kern,” so that more Kern County students can have access to outdoor education opportunities. Locations in Kern’s mountain or dessert communities and along the central coast are explored.

April 1969 — The first five-day sessions of Camp KEEP are held at Camp Condor near Pine Mountain Club and at Tehachapi Mountain Park. Camp KEEP is coordinated by George Houghton, KCSOS’s director of science, conservation and outdoor education, under the leadership of Bruce Crawford and County Superintendent Harry Blair.

Fall 1969 — Spring 1970 — Camp KEEP sessions are held at Camp Condor near Pine Mountain Club and at Tehachapi Mountain Park.

Spring 1971 — Camp KEEP moves to a 10-acre plot on Keene Ranch, in the foothills off of Hwy. 58, 30 miles east of Bakersfield.

June 1, 1971 — Local education officials and dignitaries gather in Hart Flat to officially dedicate KEEP as the Bruce M. Crawford School. Harry Blair, county schools superintendent, explained at the ceremony that he selected the name to pay tribute to Crawford “who more than any one person has spearheaded the drive for this project since it was conceived more than four years ago.”

Fall 1971 — KEEP operates at Hazard Canyon south of Morro Bay in Montaña De Oro State Park.

Bruce Crawford tells The Bakersfield Californian in a news article dated Nov. 28 1971:

“The secret of our ability to move the school to an area that is under study is that its support facilities are on wheels. We use the environment itself as our classrooms. Therefore, when we move depending upon the season or the subjects’ demand, we simply pull mobile units to a new site. These units include kitchen, pantry, first aid, sanitation facilities, dormitories, and all the rest as simply as pulling any other trailer.”

Spring 1972 — KEEP Ocean is relocated to a new site within Montaña de Oro State Park, where it has operated since.

May 1973 — The Kern County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse donated $2,500 so that children with physically and mentally disabilities can take part in KEEP. It became the first of many donations over the years.

Spring 1974 — Camp is held at Cambria YMCA Camp due to heavy flooding at Montaña de Oro State Park.

1987 — Because of the popularity and growth of KEEP, KCSOS leases the YMCA Dickson Camp near Glennville, CA and opens a second camp.

Spring 1990 — KCSOS purchases YMCA Dickson Camp and officially renames it KEEP Sierra.

Spring 1992 — KEEP Cambria opens, at the request (and with the financial support) of the Bakersfield City School District, in order to give their students a coastal science experience operating out of the Cambria YMCA facility

October 1992 — The KEEP Foundation is founded.

1994 — KEEP Cambria relocates to a new Cambria location, operating out of the Coalinga-Huron Park & Recreation District “Camp Yeager” facility.

2003 — KEEP Sierra is closed.

2004 – 2005 — KEEP celebrates 35 years of operation.

2009 – 2010 — KEEP celebrates 40 years of operation. A new dome is built at KEEP Ocean.

2011 – 2012 — KEEP Ocean installs a new kitchen and adds a new entry native plant garden

2016 – 2017 — KEEP Ocean completes an extensive project to renovate its outdoor amphitheater.

2017 – 2018 — KEEP Cambria is held at two temporary campuses due to ongoing maintenance at its permanent campus. In the Fall 2017, camp is held at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School. In the Spring 2018, camp is held at Camp San Luis Obispo. KCSOS begins exploring options to move to a new, permanent location.

Spring 2018 — KCSOS leases property on the site of Camp Arroyo Grande for a new camp to replace the campus in Cambria. The new campus is slated to open Fall 2018 under the name KEEP By the Sea.

August 28, 2018 — The first students arrive at Camp KEEP By the Sea in Arroyo Grande.