While there were many roadblocks to the construction of the outdoor school, it was volunteerism and a consistent commitment by Jack L. Boyd that made sure students had an outdoor school in the Sierra Nevada.
In 1955, Boyd had just received his masters degree in school administration and was searching for a job. While simultaneously applying for jobs at the Merced County Office of Education and Madera County Office of Education, Boyd was, within an hour, offered jobs at both offices. He accepted a position in Merced as the director of Outdoor Education.
Outdoor Education in Merced County began in 1951 with a group of nearly 70 sixth-graders from Planada and Le Grand attending an outdoor facility. As the program grew, MCOE sought a larger facility, and they relocated to the San Francisco YMCA camp known as Jones Gulch near La Honda.
Due to the rapid growth of the program, Boyd began searching for another site. Of several sites made available by the U.S. Forest Service, the site near Fish Camp was chosen due to the availability of electricity.
The Forest Service agreed to a 30-year lease on the five acres where the school would be located and the surrounding 20 acres for educational purposes.
Boyd then hit his first roadblock.
The lease MCOE signed with the Forest Service was invalid because at the time, there was no provision in California Education Code that gave a county superintendent of schools the authority to lease or purchase real property.
The next step was to find a county agency that could sign the lease, so Boyd turned to Merced County Board of Supervisors.
In 1956, the Supervisors signed a lease with the Forest Service securing the 25 acres for the school and surrounding area.
Through this collaboration, Boyd was able to utilize the county’s building inspector and Planning Department, which helped in the initial creation of master plan for the property.
Boyd, who had experience with land surveying equipment, began to establish the property line himself. Accompanied by his son and one of his son’s friends, Boyd began the surveying work with their assistance. One of the boys inadvertently bumped a yellow jacket’s nest in a tree near a creek and upset the insects. The boys ran away from the tree and jumped into the creek to avoid the wasps; neither was stung, but Boyd recalled, “I never saw two teenagers move so fast.”
After the master plan development and the initial survey of the property, the next task was one of the most difficult: raising the necessary funds to see the project through to completion. Boyd recalls walking next to a stream at the site and finding something in a sandy area next to the stream — it was a 50-cent coin. “This 50-cent coin is the start of the funds to build this facility,” he said.
Since the camp would be co-ed, it was determined that two villages would be needed, one for boys and one for girls. The cost for materials for each village was estimated around $2,000.
Though participating school districts were expected to contribute a certain amount of money, funds for the camp were also solicited from service clubs. Several service clubs played a part in the construction of housing units, but one in particular stuck out in Boyd’s memory.
The Merced Kiwanis Club spent weekends at the facility building a housing unit. Since theirs was the first to be built there were no sleeping units and members had to camp out. One of the members got so cold at night “he got up and placed his cot over the coals of the campfire they had earlier,” Boyd recalled.
As the construction came along, Boyd realized the facility needed a name and that since it was for children, a child should pick the name. In 1959, there was a contest for all the schools in Merced County and a student from Los Banos Elementary School won the contest with her submission: Camp Green Meadows.
At the time, several military bases were closing and Boyd saw this as an opportunity to purchase surplus property for the school. A dining hall was purchased from Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg in the East Bay Area. A bizarre twist to the relocation of the dining hall is who did the work of disassembling and transporting the material — Merced County prisoners.
Through an arrangement with the Merced County Sheriff ’s Department, prisoners dismantled the dining hall and helped haul it back to Merced. The kitchen and dining hall constructed at Green Meadows could prepare and serve meals to 175 people.
Several small buildings were constructed after that, and in the spring of 1962, Boyd and a few other people were working on what would be the school’s office. It was a cold and snowy spring and in between completing the flooring and framing the walls, all during snow showers, the temperature dropped to three degrees above zero and froze their power saw. They then resorted to cutting all of the wood by hand. “It was a week to remember,” Boyd recalled.
In September of 1960, the facility had an official opening and dedication and soon after a caretaker was hired to oversee and protect the property. Fish Camp resident Jim Terry, who was a handyman, took the position. Since Fish Camp had no deputy sheriff, Boyd was able to convince the Mariposa County Sheriff to appoint Terry as deputy sheriff for the area.
The first school to visit the facility was on May 1, 1964, and it was a school from Hilmar. Boyd said the weather was beautiful, but there was a pretty big surprise the next day. “We woke up the next morning to 18 inches of snow,” he said.
It became apparent soon after the camp opened that there was a need for a larger dining area and the Bing Crosby Foundation donated $10,000 for the new building. Boyd then approached the Merced County Supervisors, who still technically owned the property, and they agreed to match the foundation with $10,000.
In 1964, Boyd was promoted to assistant superintendent of Business Services at MCOE, but still had a strong interest in the outdoor school. Two years later, Boyd and a group of other administrators went before the Board of Supervisors asking that the school be turned over to MCOE since the Education Code had changed to allow the superintendent to own or lease property. The Supervisors were reluctant to turn over the property, but in 1970 granted the county superintendent of schools fiscal independence of the property.
A few years later, then-Superintendent Floyd Schelby was given the responsibility of overseeing Camp Green Meadows. And in 1978, upon Boyd’s retirement, the Merced County Board of Education named the facility Jack L. Boyd Outdoor School.