L.A. spent $2 million to keep up camps closed for more than 10 years

The audit by Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, shown, was sparked by a call to her fraud hotline.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles park officials spent $2 million to operate two campgrounds that have been closed for more than 10 years, according to an audit released Wednesday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Camp Valcrest in the Angeles National Forest and Camp Radford in the San Bernardino Mountains have been closed for the last 13 and 20 years, respectively, because necessary repairs were deferred. But the city Department of Recreation and Parks has paid $2 million for caretakers to live at the camps since they closed and nearly $100,000 for water to be trucked to Camp Valcrest, the audit states.

The audit also found that the department paid more than $217,000 for the purchase and installation of a mobile home at Decker Canyon Camp in the Santa Monica Mountains, but failed to obtain the proper permits. The home was never installed because the road to the camp wasn’t wide enough to accommodate its delivery. It was ultimately stored for 10 years, then destroyed when a 2011 inspection revealed that it was no longer habitable. The campground itself was closed last year.


“No one was making the tough choices about whether or not we were going to keep these assets as city-owned,” Greuel said.

The audit, sparked by a call to the controller’s fraud hotline, comes as deep cuts to the city’s park system have forced the closure of swimming pools, shortened park hours and spurred an increasing reliance on private and institutional support. In 2002, the Wildlands Conservancy offered to pay $616,000 to help reopen Camp Valcrest, but the parks department failed to meet the group’s contingency demands and the offer was withdrawn in 2004.

More recently, a group of advocates led by developer Steve Soboroff has been lobbying for the restoration of park funding. In May, City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge signed a pledge to protect funding for the department.

A 2007 city report estimated that it would cost nearly $10 million to perform the necessary seismic repairs to reopen Camp Radford. And Camp Valcrest needs about $466,000 in repairs and $150,000 for the drilling of a water well, according to the audit.

Greuel, who is running for mayor, said that protecting parks funding would be a “key priority” for her if elected, but added that city leaders would have to “think creatively” to find more money.

“You have to think outside the box … look at other entities you can partner with to keep these camps open,” Greuel said.