The Early Years – Camp Marston

YMCA Camp Marston is the oldest organized youth camp in the county. We have been servicing children and families for 90 years.
It was the spring of 1921 when Ed Fletcher suggested a possible camp site for the “Boys’ Work Program” in the Pine Hills District of Julian. After surveying the area near Pine Hills Lodge, the survey party came across an open spot with a beautiful meadow and tall pine trees. That very spot is the location of today’s central athletic fields. They consulted with the land-owner for permission to camp on the 2-acre site on a rental basis of $1.00 per year.

George Marston, Roscoe Hazard, Ed Fletcher, Ted Smith and Judge L. A. Turrentine then met to discuss the use of the property, and thus was born the “Pine Hills Camp for Boys”. Ted F. Smith became the first camp director, serving 1921 to 1927.

In 1928, the name was changed to honor one of San Diego’s most prominent citizens, George Marston. Mr. Marston founded the San Diego YMCA, and at the time had already given 36 years of service to the Y.

From the year 1923, the following charter was recorded: “The object and purpose of the Camp is to provide a place for boys to spend a vacation where they lead a healthy happy outdoor life, free from conventionality but with a program and leadership that make for high ideals and development of Christian character”. The camp fee in its first summer was $10.00 plus $1.50 for transportation.

Starting with 2 leased acres, the camp grew to 17 acres in 1929, then to 58 acres in1944. Today, two camping centers; Marston and Raintree Ranch encompass 236 acres of pristine mountain land. Camp Marston is the oldest youth camp in San Diego County. Over 15,000 people each year come to the camps for that same “healthy happy outdoor life” that was called for in its original charter.

Please explore below to see Camp Marston thru the years


In 1950, Howard Christman became the Camp Executive. Mr. John Dexter donated funds to construct a 10,000-gallon water storage tank. The Fletcher family donated funds to drill a deep water well, which still serves the camp today.

In 1950, a long-time dream of camp staff began to take shape. The construction of Holmes Lodge, named in honor of YMCA Secretary (Director) Herbert Holmes began. The lodge was built to provide an opportunity for programs at camp during inclement weather. Camp alumnus Don Settle told the story of young men volunteering their time to hand-dig the trenches and lay concrete block. It was the hardest labor Don ever did! In 1953, the project was completed, and Holmes Lodge was dedicated into service.

"Bible Peak" was created by young men in the Raggers Program, providing a private place for ceremonies, worship and fellowship.

On October 23, 1956, the Evening Tribune reported that the Kiwanis Club of San Diego had taken on the expansion of Camp Marston in Pine Hills as a club project. Dr. Roy French Kidd, President, said the 240 member organization was prepared to spend $10,000 a year or more for at least the next five years to expand the physical properties of the camp.

In the late 1950's, the A-Frames were constructed to add capacity to the camps. Reverend Chet Chappel served as Director from 1954-59. The "Camp Engineer" was Weber Fox.

In 1959, Camp Marston entered a lease arrangement with the County Office of Education, and 6th-Grade School Camp began. In the late 60's, the County constructed their own Camp Cuyamaca, and many schools moved there. But some remained, and planted the seed for today's thriving Outdoor Education Program, serving over 8,000 children annually.


1960 saw the construction of the Camp Health Center, under the direction of Kiwanis Club member Herb Fifield. The SeaBee Unit of the Eleventh Naval District provided the labor to construct this building, still in use today.

With the year-round School Camp program bustling, heaters were added to all the camp cabins In 1961, Parker B. Snow became the camp director.

On July 1, 1962, the swimming pool at Marston was dedicated to the Downtown Kiwanis Club. The project cost was $25,000. That's the same pool we use today, which has been refurbished thanks to a gift from the Eugene & Joan Foster Fund of the San Diego Foundation.

In 1963, Richard Irwin led an effort to refurbish the outdoor Chapel, including a distinctive quartz altar. When the stage was refurbished in 2001, some of that same quartz was used in the stonework around the Y-Triangle.

In 1964, the Gilmore Dining Hall received an addition, thanks to the Downtown Rotary Club. This section expanded seating capacity to over 200 children to meet growing demand.

In 1963, Ralph Green served as camp's Program Director. The Palomar YMCA in Escondido donated the construction of a large A-Frame cabin in South Village, used by our teen "Mountaineer Campers" every summer.

1966 was an historic season in that it was the first time we offered co-ed camping sessions.

In 1967, a significant land-trade took place between the Y and Starr-Rutherford Cattle Ranch, adding 80 acres to the Marston property. Also that year, a special "Golden M Society" was created, honoring those who had worked for Camp Marston. J. Weber Fox, who did much of the work at camp, was honored at an evening gala.

In 1967, Valentine Hoy became Camp Executive Director, replacing Parker Snow. The storage building behind the Marston kitchen was constructed, with the leadership of George Jessop. In 1968, the Downtown Rotary Club sponsored an expansion of the commercial kitchen.

As the decade wound down, talks continued between the Y and Pine Hills Mutual Water Company to purchase "Pine Hills Lake" and surrounding land. A gift from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation helped the momentum leading toward purchase.


1971 was a significant year for Y-Camp Marston! George Jessop Jr., Chairman of the Camp Committee, advised the Y Board of Directors that the Pine Hills Mutual Water Company had decided to sell some of their property adjoining Camp Marston. Thanks to George's wisdom and initiative, 17 acres of land and Lake Jessop were purchased for the enjoyment of thousands of campers.

In 1970, Valentine Hoy was promoted to Associate General Director of the San Diego YMCA. He was replaced by Harvey Sims, who hired Ed Greaves as Summer Camp Director in 1972. Doug MCalla served as Program Director. Jeff Wohler was hired to facilitate winter groups. Also in 1972, the Camp Committee determined that owning horses at Marston was no longer feasible, and the horses were sold. Marston has a long history of horseback riding, a program that was moved to Raintree Ranch in the 1970's.

One of the most famous and loved staff members of Marston, Floyd "Fats" Crowe, retired in May of 1973. Staff and campers alike would travel to Julian just to visit with Fats.

In 1973, Lake Jessop once again went completely dry (as it has again in 2005 & 2007). An engineering study determined that water loss was as follows:

46 percent to evaporation

33 percent to ground-seepage

21 percent to plant transpiration

On January 5, 1974, a severe snow storm hit Marston, knocking down power lines, trees and breaking gas lines. School Camp groups had to cancel, and County Honor Camp volunteers helped with the clean up.

In 1974, the County Office of Education reported to the Y that they were creating a new camp, Fox, and would no longer utilize Marston. Thousands of San Diegans, now adults, recall their days at 6th-Grade School camp from those years. The withdrawal caused financial hardship, but also sewed the seeds for today's thriving Outdoor Education program.

Summer 1974 saw Dave Glassey, his wife Becky, Ed and Ginger Greaves and William Lane in key leadership roles. A new 21-day Leader-In-Training program was created.

Also in 1974, Captain Bill Fargo, Chairman of the Camp Committee orchestrated a project by the US Navy SeaBee Construction Battalion to re-countour the lake basin, deepen the lake, add a clay-layer and remove vegetation.

In 1974, James George became the Camp Caretaker. In 1975, the Recreation Department of San Diego State University helped the Y initiate our own Outdoor Education, School Camp Program (now thriving, serving over 80 schools and 6,000 students annually).

In the summer of 1975, camp served not only 1,362 campers, but also ran Family Camping programs.

Villages were named Pioneer (8 year olds), Craftsman (9-10) and Woodsman (11-12). The Archery Range was moved that summer to its current location below Lake Jessop. That summer also saw problems with the camp sewer lines. In the fall of 1975, an extensive project re-located the leech lines along the roadway to South Village. That same area is still in use for waste water disposal to this day (although the lines were again replaced in 2004-05).

At this point in our written history documents, we have no further information. Any alumni that wish to submit information, key dates, memories, photographs or stories, please email or call Tom Madeyski, 760-765-0642.

1980's We need your help! We do not have a lot of materials, names, stories or photos from the decade of the 1980's. Can you help us gather and document the information from this time period such as, names of key persons (i.e. volunteers, supporters, and staff), photographs, significant events, construction projects, new program activities etc. If you have any memories or information to share, please contact: Tom Madeyski P.O. Box 2440 Julian, CA 92036. 760-765-0642 x107

On March 1, 1990, Tom Madeyski was appointed Executive Director of the Camping Services YMCA. Betty Allen was the Camp Manager, Michael Shipley the Caretaker, Brenda Steelman the Office Manager, Kathi Madeyski the Outdoor Education Director and Debbie Spaulding the Raintree Manager.

That year, the camp administrative office moved from the Mission Valley YMCA to the (converted) Craft Lodge at Marston. The camp's physical plant was not in good condition, and a long road of growth & refurbishing began.

That spring, HOYCO Construction completely rennovated the 3 camp bathrooms. Valentine Hoy, former Camp Director, was now the Chairman of the Camp Board, and graciously donated the work. Key returning staff Gerald Lopez, Diane Moore and James Chicca served as camp coordinators, bridging the gap from previous leadership to new.

In the early/mid 90's, the San Diego YMCA conducted a Capital Campaign. Thanks to the efforts of Y-Directors Rich Collato and Bill Davis, significant gifts were secured for improvements at Camp. Major donors included:

  • Bill Carstens
  • Caterpillar Foundation and Solar Turbines, Inc.
  • Parker Foundation
  • Eugene and Joan Foster Fund, San Diego Foundation
  • Dan & Vi McKinney Fund, San Diego Foundation
  • Arthur Pratt Foundation
  • Valentine & Jan Hoy
  • George Jessop

Some staff/directors from the early 90's included Matt Sampson, Program Director, Zayanne (Gardner) Thompson, Director of Outdoor Education, Rik Nicholson, Program Director and JC Mayfield, Maintenance Director. The terrific trio of April Ayala, Christine Millar and Tyrees Shatzer served as wonderful camp counselors during those years.