Camp businesses rebuilt and thrived after devastating Kernville floods 

Camp Kernville after rebuilding their grounds. Photo Courtesy of Camp Kernville

Story By Catherine Stachowiak

Just over a year ago the campsites of Kernville suffered severe setbacks to their businesses, caused by the devastating storms and flooding. Yet with perseverance and help, from volunteers and staff, business owners have surmounted the rebuilding process and met every deadline they placed to rebuild. 

Owner of Camp Kernville, Jim Nottingham shared his story with the Kern Valley Sun Thursday, March 14. 

Nottingham said that before last year he had only suffered minor damages over 40 years of ownership until last year’s catastrophe.  When the storms hit last year the camps suffered a huge flood, which was devastating to the community. 

“Not only was it devastating as far as the damage that it did to the park, but the damage that it did to the continuation of our business operations,” said Nottingham.

A group called 5150, out of Tehachapi, who were significantly vested in assisting the campgrounds in reconstructing, offered manpower, machinery, trailers and chainsaws. 

Others affiliated with the schools, which his daughter Sheila Gallis rallied, came to help. 

For a couple weekends the campsite had an excess of 50 people at a time bringing equipment and tools to pitch in.

The camp had a big dozer and back dozers there for two weeks each. They had two skip loader rig tractors and two bobcat skid steers there for six weeks each, and two excavators, for about four weeks.

Nottingham’s daughter, Jennifer Hendricks, park manager said her dad, in his 70s, was there for 10 to 15 hour days, for 60 days straight, attempting to make flood repairs to his campsite.  Even as the flood was happening he was set up at Ewings making arrangements for repairs.  

“FEMA came by and offered nothing,” Nottingham said.  There was no assistance unless survivors wanted a loan referral with rates at about 8 percent.  

“I would say that we’ve probably spent between $300,000 and $400,000 in reconstruction costs,” said Nottingham, which were aside from the loss of business they suffered.  

The business extended rain checks to people who had reserved to be at the site from the flood period through May 1. Camp Kernville also extended rain checks to those who were afraid to come because of what happened last year when the waters were running high.

“We’ve been here a long time and we’re not going to let a little water interfere with us doing what we do best.” The family owned and run, second generation business plans to celebrate their 40-year anniversary this October,” said Nottingham.

“We have a fantastic longtime staff who are the backbone of our business and have been instrumental in keeping operations moving forward post flood.  We have made some significant improvements to our water front sites.”  Camp Kernville brought in new picnic tables and BarBQ pits.  

Camp Kernville invites the public to visit. The campground often has special events with bands. They have movies on weekends in summer. They celebrate some holidays and events. Camp Kernville is number one for advertising events in Kernville. Please see their Facebook or instagram.

Beverly Demetriff manager at Frandy Campground said rebuilding the grounds

definitely gave the campground more land because the river shifted so far over.  “We’ve actually flattened out more of our campsites so they’re larger, especially the ones on the river. It just made those campsites a lot roomier. They are actually a lot more level,” she said.

When the flood came through it left gullies, hills and piles of rocks and tons of debris. They ended up leaving some of that debris around the backside of the campground as a natural dam. 

They developed an area they call their compound camping area, which houses over 100 people. “It’s probably going to take us close to five years to recoup the monetary losses but we came back,” Frandy said.

The entire campground was destroyed. So the group just went through and picked up every stick, cut down all the debris and packed it up into the dump trailers. “Taking all that stuff to the dump I probably had well over 200 loads to the dump. It was crazy how much debris there was,” Demetriff said. 

Frandy had to bring more sand and they were fortunate to have more wood chips donated to them. They also bought dirt they brought in. 

“What I ended up doing is I kind of sectioned off the camp ground. We attacked one area at a time, and that way it never became too overwhelming.”  

Thankfully the campground didn’t miss any of its important events.  Demetriff thinks they’re more prepared for future events by keeping track of the snow levels. 

“The river should be great for camping and rafting this year,” she said.

Kern Rivers Edge was another campsite business which rebuilt, after being hit by the disaster according to the owners, John and Rhonda Stallone. John bought the property 25 years ago and built the site himself. 

The business lost its dining area, Culinary Operations Wagon (COW) and tables. When the water went down they lost the material covering those areas.

The owners had local work parties helping them get the trees and debris left all over the camp grounds, and moved it into one specific area. 

Then another flood was coming. So they had to prepare and wanted to get a lot of sediment, where they hold their running-races, about four to five feet high, for about 40 to 50 yards.  So John Stallone got his backhoe and removed it all day with a hired contractor and got about 800 yards of sand out of the campground before the second flood that would have ripped all that sand away. Then the water receded again a couple days later. So they started to put the place back together. 

“I rented a skid steer for two, two and a half weeks, to move sand where they could drive around and attempt to line things up where it was previously. The amphitheatre is back in place and the volley ball.” 

The campground lost 10- 12 campsites they had to re-do. “It was a long process. I’ve been trying to do 5 projects a day.” 

The owners had to meet these goals in time for a big camping group coming April 20.

Later they added more dirt and landscaping and did more cleanup.  They thought their lawn was dead but it was dormant and then in spring it started sprouting again. “We’ve got the green back, and the lawn,” said Stallone.

“We have the resiliency to keep bringing it back to life.  The community support behind us and getting it back, the care that they came out and helped, we really were thankful and loved that.  We’re just getting ready for a new season and rearing to go.”