Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Keeping the Dream Alive

Article and photos by Ron Dingee #59338

Back in the early 1980's an amorphous group of full-time and part-time RV'ers became bound together with a single dream: to have their own RV home base in southern California to which they could return from their travels to rest and relax, become reunited with old friends, drain and fill their tanks, and plan their next adventure. Their numbers fluctuated from time to time, but under the direction of a few key people, they set out to fulfill their dream.

For a few years they searched and searched for just the right place, but it wasn't easy. At one point they purchased some property and sunk a well while working to gain community support for their dream. But, even after wining and dining their neighbors, they couldn't get approval to do what they wanted. They sold that property and continued to search until they came across a likely place on the western edge of the thriving metropolis of Aguanga, CA. It's claim to fame was one bar, one restaurant, one post office, one general store, and one real estate office. But, the area was within a reasonable drive to I-10 and I-8 going east to west; and I-15, I-5, and I-215 going north to south.... and it was reasonably cheap.

The property was the possession of an attorney in financial straits and, at one time in its history, it had been
the Lazy K campground, a run down place with eighteen sites and occasional, barely useable hook-ups. At that time it was occupied by vagrants and drug users. The property was pretty raw, semi-desert with a lower plateau where the old campground was located going straight up to a rock and boulder laden hilltop. But, they had a dream and dreams are not to be denied. On November 7, 1989, the papers were signed and the property now belonged to the RVers.

Construction Begins

It took them over eighteen months and a large chunk of money to acquire the permits from Riverside county before they could start construction. It took nearly four years to get all the permits they needed. The permits alone cost them $250,000. What they didn't know was that this particular property was also the rare home to the rarely seen Kangaroo Rat, but for $273,000 the county became less worried about the tiny rodent.

It was agonizing for them to have to wait to start construction of the main RV site area up on the hill, but the time was used to clean up the mess that had been left behind. Documents show that over 1,000 large lawn and garden bags were filled with just trash. Over time, the founders were able to restore to some degree of efficiency, the water, electric, and septic systems that had been left behind. They were able to make repairs to a couple of buildings on the site, clear large areas of overgrowth, hire a project engineer /contractor... and their numbers grew.

 You must remember, these founders were not spring chickens. They were mostly retired RV'ers who had already had full careers. One couple was actually in their mid-80's and one was disabled. They were former teachers, nurses, accountants, hairdressers, housekeepers, clerks, salesmen, and retired military and police. Few had skills that translated to this mammoth task: to convert this raw, semi-desert land into 280 RV sites, each with full hookups, an 8' x 12' storage shed, and a poured concrete pad.

Early on, the custom of an ice cream social in the evenings was started. This became a time to relax, cool off, and share the experiences of the day. They also started the custom of meeting every morning over a "burn barrel" to make plans for the day. Once the work started up on the hill, another custom was started: the delivery of coffee and cookies at about ten in the morning. It was often said, "I never worked so hard in my life for just two cookies."

Over the next few years, these retired RV'ers, carved out, with nothing more than sweat and a dream, what today is known as the Jojoba Hills SKP Resort. (Oh yes, a few bull dozers, back hoes, trucks, and a ton of dynamite also helped.)

Working Groups

They organized themselves into groups. There were the Rockettes. These were the women who lined the
25,000 feet of drainage ditches, pathways, culverts and storm drains with rock and cement. They even had to scrounge to find the rock or break up old concrete to use. There were the Ubangees. This was a group of men and women who built and poured the concrete pads for the 280 8'x30' patios, 8'x12'storage sheds and other facilities. The name came from, "You bangee here and I'll bangee there". Another group was called the Wampum Makers. This was the group whose responsibility was to raise the money to cover the many extras that were needed. They raised over $10,000 dollars which was used for the tables and chairs in the new clubhouse and other necessities.

Monumental Completion

Jojoba Hills is the home of an extremely unique flood control system. There are six ponds that interconnect with runs and waterfalls. During the rainy season, the water levels are lowered to handle the huge run-off which is all planned to protect the neighbors. Over the years, these ponds, with fish and turtles, have become places of beauty and stop over areas for migrating birds.

By the time the 280 sites on the hill were ready for occupancy, this author found the following statistics:
  • 120,000 sq. ft of concrete had been poured
  • One million cubic yards of earth had been moved
  • Five miles of road were cleared
  • Thirty five miles of trenches had been dug
  • Two and a half miles of storm drains were installed
  • Three wells had been dug
  • Four water storage tanks had been installed
  • A complete water system was made operable
  • Seventeen septic tanks had been installed with leach fields
  • Electric and phone service to all sites was connected
  • 14000 sq. ft. clubhouse with pool, hot tubs, library, exercise room, billiard room, and mailroom was built
  • 16,000 gallons of coffee were served
  • 35,000 cookies delivered
  • and a total of 292,500 hours of volunteer work had been accomplished.
Today, although the major work is done, many of the customs started back then still continue. Monday through Friday, cookies and coffee are delivered to every work site. Our volunteers still work for two cookies a day. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they have ice cream socials. And, every Monday morning, members meet at the pool to plan the work for the week.

Year of Jubilee

This year, 2014, is the year of the Resort's "Year of Jubilee". Festivities have been planned all year long to celebrate the 25 years that have passed since the property was purchased in 1989. A geologist from San Diego has given lectures on the geology of the area and a local historian has given lectures on the local history. Plans have been made for a chili and corn bread cook-off and an old fashioned hoe down with music, games and food. (I'm told that a dunk tank has been planned for the Board of Directors.) A special area has been prepared to honor the founders (Founders' Park). The year of celebration will conclude with a dinner on November 7th where all the founders, living and departed, will be honored.

Built and Maintained by Volunteers

Jojoba Hills, with the help of a dedicated staff, is still managed and maintained by volunteers and provides a place for active adults (over 55) to ply their many skills and interests. It is financially secure and serves as an RV home base for 283 Escapee Memberships. The Resort offers more amenities and activities than anyone can imagine at a cost of only $253/month with a membership buy-in that is returned after you decide to leave and another SKP assumes your membership.

 But, the work isn't completely done. Jojoba Hills is still growing. Just within the past couple of years, an air gun range has been modernized, a brand new arts and crafts center has been developed with plans for a new glass and pottery area, and the tennis court was resurfaced and lined for four Pickleball courts.

Active Adults Gather Each Morning to Compete in Pickleball
 Personal Experience
I have been a member at Jojoba Hills for 14 years. I must tell you that in doing the research for this article, I have gone through six large books of pictures starting from day one, read several newspaper articles, and interviewed some of the founders. I have become awe struck at what they accomplished. I cannot imagine what it took to give me, and the current members, the fantastic life we have here today. One comment was made by all of the founders: "When we needed something, it miraculously arrived."

If I had come by this property back then, I would have driven right by, but then again, that's why I am writing this article instead of out repairing the roads today.

Unfortunately, the number of founders is dwindling, but it is making room for a new, vibrant, ambitious group of active adult RV'ers who are also dedicated to keeping the dream alive.

* * * * *

Visit Jojoba Hills RV Resort's website for complete information about the resort.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard that the average age of the Founders, during construction, was 67! An amazing group of people.
    Zoe Macon