One step at a time: Recovery efforts from Aug. 5 flooding at Buffalo Mountain Camp, in Dry Creek continue

Becky Campbell • Sep 17, 2012 at 9:00 AM

It’s been a slow process getting Buffalo Mountain Camp on the road to recovery after an Aug. 5 flood basically destroyed it and many homes further into the Dry Creek community.

But if there’s one message camp director Jason Onks wants people to know, it’s that the 2013 camp season is still on.

“We know we are going to do summer camp 2013,” he said last week. “Day camp will be pretty easy. Residential camp” will be more challenging, he said. “We certainly want to do what is going to be safest. Our position right now really is making people aware of what our needs are. Our biggest need is money,” he said.

Camp 2013 is just part of a developing plan to reinvent the 63-year-old United Methodist Church camp. A five-year-old master plan also is being reinvented because the flood showed leaders that areas where new buildings were supposed to be built aren’t such a good location after all.

“We’d received enough money to begin portions of it. We had planned to build six brand new cabins along the creek between Allison Lodge and down near the pond,” Onks said. “The area where the old pool is was supposed to be the location our new dining hall multi-use facility.

“Thankfully none of that stuff had been built because it would have been totally destroyed by this.”

The delay in getting recovery projects off the ground at the camp comes from in-depth studies the Methodist conference is conducting.

“Our board, and a specific task force, has been assigned to really go deep into the assessment and planning process. We’ve spoken to architects and engineers, which we contracted with ... who have essentially taken our site plan, the master plan we had” and will revamp it.

“We determined certainly that our property is still viable but the extent to which is what we’re really trying to work to understand. We’ve been told that we can certainly rebuild in this flood zone, but we need to know of course what we’re getting into to know what might be possible,” Onks said.

The camp isn’t the only resident in Dry Creek — or other areas affected by the flood — beginning to rebuild. Now that most of the flooded homes and land have been cleaned up and leveled, work is already under way at some locations.

Bill and Wanalynn Chapman, who own WW Miniature Horse Farm, already have two of their horses back in the stables and a new roof on their house. The roof was the first step in repairing the extensive damage to their home, Bill Chapman said.

Samaritan’s Purse workers spent days at the Chapmans’ last month clearing debris, leveling the land and gutting the house down to the studs, rafters and floor joists.

Getting the horses back is another big relief for Wanalynn. Watching her with the tiny equines is like watching a kid with a new toy. They are her pride and joy. The couple’s four dogs are also back home with a temporary dog lot beside the camper where they live in at the top of the property. But Wanalynn said she’s anxious to get the rest of the herd — 21 mares, three more stallions, a donkey, four goats and four cats — back on the farm.

The Chapmans lost 11 horses — including five miniature dwarf horses called the Brat Pack — two goats and a donkey in the flood.

They hope to get started soon on putting the house back together, but all the plans are not in place for that yet. It’s the same all up and down Dry Creek, but some residents will be getting brand new homes at no charge.

“The program we’re calling New Build Washington County will focus on building new houses that were damaged beyond repair or destroyed,” said Tim Norton, advancement officer for the Appalachian Service Project.

“The plan is start with eight houses … get them off the ground, get enough volunteers to come in and do the work. We’re planning to launch this thing in two weeks or no later than the last of October,” he said.

“We have approval for 46 houses. Those are houses identified through the (Washington County) mayor’s office and president of ASP,” Norton said.

In addition to the New Build Washington County, the ASP has another program that will be working simultaneously in the flood-damaged areas. It’s the traditional Tri-Cities program that runs year-round, Norton said. That program will provide assistance to residents whose home structure survived the flood, but needs work to make it safe and habitable.

The total cost for the new building program is around $1.38 million, most of which will be funded through a grant program that will provide $20,000 per home. Norton said local fundraising efforts will provide the remaining $180,000 so that each new home’s cost is around $30,000.

“People are very generous when we have a specific thing we can point them to and say — this is what we’re going to do with your money,” Norton said.

County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the next step will be determining which residents get assistance first and letting them know.

“Our focus right now is prioritizing the needs so we can put all of these resources in the field, actually starting the rebuilding effort,” Eldridge said. “No one has been promised anything. We’re five weeks into this thing. They know help is coming … as of today it’s not been quantified and they don’t know when to expect it,” he said.

“There is a certain degree of frustration and that’s understandable. We’re working as quickly as we can. Unfortunately with very limited resources, to bring order to the process and deliver relief to their circumstances,” it takes time, he said.

Norton said there are still many opportunities for volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, to help on many projects. For more information about volunteering with ASP, call 854-8800.

Onks said Buffalo Mountain Camp also will access its volunteer database soon and those opportunities are also available. To volunteer on projects at the camp, visit the camp website at www.buffalomountaincamp.org.

Onks also said the camp will be involved in Johnson City’s October First Friday by helping get musical acts for the night. Camp representatives will be downtown that night selling T-shirts and providing information about the recovery. The Family Skate Center in Johnson City will host a fundraiser for the camp Sept. 27 called Rollin’ to Recovery. A portion of the $5 entry fee will go to the camp and there will be raffle tickets for door prizes. That is scheduled from 5 to 8:30 p.m.

ASP is also still accepting donations to assist with the recovery effort. Visit the agency’s website at www.asphome.org.

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