The Mendocino Woodlands is a group camping facility that is also a National Historic Landmark. This honor was bestowed in 1997 because its buildings are of exceptional architectural value and significant importance to the history of the United States.
The facility is a wood-and-stone work of art built by the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, called the Mendocino Woodlands Recreation Demonstration Area. It was one of forty-six campgrounds (including Camp David) created during that time, conceived to provide a setting for activities that would introduce the public to the wonders of nature. The Mendocino Woodlands is the only one of these camps that has maintained its historic integrity and has been continuously used for its original purpose. It was given to the people of California with the mandate that the facility be used for group and family recreation and environmental education.
Originally, the Woodlands consisted of 5,425 acres. In 1976, Senate Bill 1063 split that parcel of land, reducing the camp to approximately 700 acres in a narrow corridor along the river, and transferred it to the State Department of Parks and Recreation. Also, the law designated a 2,550-acre Special Treatment Area (STA) to create a buffer around the project. This STA was given to the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to manage. The remaining acreage, approximately 2,155 acres, was left under the control of the CDF and has little impact on the Woodlands.
Part of MWCA’s mission is to preserve and protect this beautiful camp. There are three levels for saving historic property:
1) preservation to halt decay and loss,
2) restoration to make existing structures serviceable again and
3) replacement (the last resort).
Preservation work is our highest priority and big steps have recently been taken in conjunction with the Department of State Parks. In recent years, long-lasting, beautiful copper gutters were installed on the cabins to prevent damage caused by the back splash of rainwater onto the base of the cabins. These gutters are not historic (since originally there were no gutters), but are obviously necessary and were therefore approved by the Historic Review Board in an effort to preserve the buildings. In addition, the cabins in all three camps have been given new roofs. Since MWCA also wants to preserve the flora and fauna as much as the buildings, all roofing work was preceded by covering the chimneys with plastic sheeting so that bats returning in the spring would not nest in those nooks and recesses.
Industrious young workers with the California Conservation Corps rebuilt three footbridges that cross the creek in Camp Two. The bridges had to be rebuilt to allow wheelchair access, but were designed to fit in with the historic and rustic nature of the campground.
Over the next few years, the system of pipes that brings water to the camps from natural springs in the surrounding hills will be replaced. The restoration of the Woodlands’ buildings is in the planning process and will proceed as funds become available. See the Friends of the Woodlands page for how you can help.