A Farewell To Adventure

San Francisco’s Stern Grove is a very special place for our family. It is a place of beginnings and endings. It is a place to share and to learn. The Grove is one of San Francisco’s great treasures. I got married there and mourned the passing of my father there. Both my wife and I have performed there and enjoyed many a summer concert with friends and family. I taught swimming just across the street under the expert eye of the great Charlie Sava, at the pool that now bears his name. I’ve even gotten my hair cut in the grove, back stage, during a performance by the San Francisco Opera. But perhaps the fondest memories I have of Stern Grove are the earliest.

As a boy, much of my summer vacation was spent roaming the hills and meadows of Stern Grove as part of the city-run Pine Lake Day camp. Now, many decades later, my own children have been enjoying the same experience. (They’ve even performed the exact same skits and sung the exact same songs I did when I was a camper there.) Last year, I joked that, by the end of the summer, there wouldn’t be any dirt left in Stern Grove because my oldest brought it all home. He may have come home covered in mud and leaves and acorns, but he also came home tired and happy. He never failed to have a giant smile on his face at the end of the day.

This year, his sister has joined him and I wouldn’t have thought that two kids could have as much fun as they’ve had this summer. The two of them have climbed the hills, built forts where they trade in pine cones and acorns, and done all manner of arts and crafts. That she’s a girl hasn’t mattered; she’s enjoyed it just as much as her brother.

Much of what has made Pine Lake so great for my kids has been the man who has been the camp’s director for the past 21 years, Dave Dinslage.  This is a man who truly loves his job.  He cares about the camp, the kids, the staff.  You know the type.  The kind of person who spends a fair bit of his pay on supplies and equipment for the kids he cares for.

During Jared’s first summer at the camp, the schedule included a movie shown on Friday afternoons.  Knowing that I was more careful about what my kids watched than most, Dave called me each week to let me know what the movie was and to ask if Jared could watch it.  Each year, he forks over his own money for an end-of-the-summer luau, including a whole roast pig.

Dave is the sort of treasure that should be left alone to do what he does so well.

Too bad the Recreation and Parks department doesn’t understand that.

Sadly, last Friday was Dave’s last day, the end of a 38 year career with the department, including the more than two decades he spent at Pine Lake.  Dave is the victim of a misguided, penny-wise/pound-foolish attempt at cutting costs.  It doesn’t help, either, that he’s the sort of person that by-the-book political ladder-climbers can’t stand.  And so, a much loved institution is gone.

Will next year’s Pine Lake Summer Camp be the same magical adventure?  Will there even be a Pine Lake Summer Camp next summer?  Without Dave, I think the answer, for a lot of parents and a lot of kids, is a resounding no.

If you’d like to voice your opinion on this situation, please get in touch with the Recreation and Parks department or contact Phil Ginsburg at (415) 831-2701.  You can also contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Leave a Reply