San Jose may end summer family camp in Yosemite

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- The days may be numbered for the San Jose Family Camp in Yosemite National Park. The San Jose City Council will take up the subject Tuesday, debating whether or not to negotiate a new lease with the U.S. Forest Service.

Dozens of campers are planning to show up to show their support.

The Keller's started bringing their kids to San Jose's Family Camp at Yosemite back in 1978. Now they bring their grandkids too.

But they're worried that experience may be in jeopardy.

"It's scary because we think we're going to lose it. Every year we think, this could be the last," said Shirley Keller.

San Jose owns the camp buildings, but leases the land from the U.S. Forest Service. That lease will be up next year.

The question: Will the city pay to extend it?

"It's unique. It's a special program that the City of San Jose has, that almost no other cities have. And we can do this. We're recovering and we're asking for another 20-year lease," said Family Camp Manager Jena Sorrells.

Last time, the city only agreed to a five-year lease. And those years have been difficult. In 2010, the camp was forced to close in order to fix the dining hall. Then in 2013, the Rim Fire hit. 17 tents were lost, along with a deck and some sheds.

Rebuilding was the easy part, officials say, it's getting campers to come back that's been harder.

"The City of San Jose needs to hold on to this gem. And already having made that commitment 50 years ago, why stop now?" says Sorrells.

City Councilman Ash Kalra recognizes the benefits of the camp, but says the city needs to ask tough questions about the budget.

"Although there are legitimate concerns about cost and what have you, at the end of the day, I think we're getting a lot more out of it than we're putting into it," said Kalra.

The Kellers believe that's true. Their message to the city council: go camping and see for yourself.

"How can you say 'yay' or 'nay' about something that you've never experienced? That's what I would tell them to do. Come and be with us," says Keller.

They say the camp is a chance for city people to get in touch with the outdoors. They say it is worth saving.

"We want this to go on. We want our children's children to be able to come and do this," said Keller.

The camp manager hopes to at least get approval to begin negotiations with the US Forest Service. The camp's current least expires at the end of 2016.