Renewing the Jenness Park road one yard at a time

Published Jul 01, 2011

JENNESS PARK – How’s this for a daunting Saturday of yard work: more than 2,600 yards, one yard at a time, to the tune of $420,000.

That’s the task that lies – literally, packed soil and all – before the staff of Jenness Park, California Southern Baptist Convention’s conference center near Sonora.

The drive from Highway 108 to the park’s welcome center, one-and-a-half miles, has to be widened and repaired, by order of the Tuolumne County Fire Department.

“It’s never been a good road, but over the years it’s just gotten worse and worse,” said Byron Harrison, development director for Jenness Park. “It’s full of potholes and standing water, doesn’t have a shoulder, and in the winter it sometimes gets so bad we actually have a couple of bus companies that refuse to drive on it. It’s a major, major project that simply needs to be done.”

A downhill grade and the location – the Sierra Nevada mountains – mean the road is particularly unforgiving in the winter months. This past April the park was inundated with four feet of snow in one day.

While Stanislaus National Forest technically owns the land the road is on, it’s Jenness Park that needs a road accessible year-round, even to wide, heavy tour buses. This means widening the road to a required 20 feet (about 200 yards of it is currently only 14 feet wide), which will necessitate shoulders, culverts and extensive tree removal.

It’s the type of project even Jenness Park, which has a strong volunteer network year-round, must have done professionally – by those with experience and, especially, the heavy equipment that will be required.

“We can have volunteers help with tree removal, but that’s pretty much the extent of it,” explained Harrison, who started his tenure at Jenness Park as a Camper on Mission volunteer in 1998 before becoming camp director in 1999; he retired from that position in 2004 and transitioned to the post of development director.

So now the park has embarked on a campaign, called “Yard Work,” to help raise funds for the undertaking. For $150, an individual, group or church can purchase, via pledge, “a yard” of road (60 square feet). Individuals or groups can always purchase more than one yard at a time, Harrison was quick to add.

“There’s been a lot of interest already,” he said. “Youth groups and leaders, our summer staff, a lot of our volunteers, and of course the folks all across the state who use the park on a regular basis.”

The improvement is part of an overall site plan started in 2000, which Harrison said he “never anticipated working on for so long!”

“It’s all about the campers,” he stressed. “We just want to make Jenness Park accessible for every person who wants to come here for camp, training or retreats – so people can come to know Jesus and draw closer to Him.”

He paused. “And we don’t want them falling into a pothole in the driveway first.”

For more information about the project contact Harrison at 209-743-1562, visit www.jennesspark.com or call 800-258-7554.