Camp Monakiwa leaders hope to rebuild after site destroyed in New Mexico wildfire

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:39 PM CDT|Updated: May. 16, 2022 at 6:32 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - After a popular campsite for Lubbock groups and families was destroyed in the Hermit’s Peak Fire, leaders say they hope to rebuild. For generations, Camp Monakiwa has served as a summer home for groups of young people and families from the South Plains. The campsite is up Mineral Hill, by Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The main lodge, A-frames, and teepees that housed campers for years were all flattened by the fire on May 7. The Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak fire is now the largest fire in New Mexico history. It’s burned nearly 300,000 acres, forced families out of their homes for weeks and destroyed several structures.

Camp administrators haven’t been able to return to the campsite yet, but a volunteer firefighter sent them photos of the destruction. Tara Seymour, a director at Camp Monakiwa and board member of the Panhandle Plains Camp Fire Council, was shocked when she saw the photos of the destroyed campsite.

“I felt like I got kicked in the stomach, ‘cause just seeing wow, that is the place I have so many memories,” Seymour said.

John Todd, a board member on the Panhandle Plains Camp Fire Council and the Camp Monakiwa board, says the campsite has almost become like a family member to him.

“It’s just devastating to to see something that you’ve worked so hard for, and it’s such a big part of you, that’s just gone in a matter of hours,” Todd said.

The site is where the Panhandle Plains Council of the Camp Fire organization goes every year. Originally the Camp Fire Firls, the organization started in 1910, adding the Panhandle Plains council in the 1920s. Camp Monakiwa became its home in 1960, thanks to donations from the Lubbock Lions Club, candy sales and the handiwork of people from the South Plains.

“I’ve always said that anybody, any female my age or older in Lubbock area went to Camp Monakiwa,” Seymour said.

The organization went co-ed in 1975. Seymour says it housed history, like Native American folklore, the camp drum, wall signatures logging each and every camper and countless memories.

“A lot of the people I admire and love dearly are my camp family. You know the songs, the memories. You just learn, the biggest thing about camp is like the self-reliance you learn and how to be independent,” Seymour said.

53,000 people messaged camp leaders after seeing the destruction on the camp’s Facebook post.

“And it’s just like wow, the shock, how many lives it’s touched. People quoted it as my way of life. It’s my everyday, you know. I think about it every day. And the neatest thing are people talking about how camp was where they could go be themselves,” Seymour said.

Camp Monakiwa is especially close to Seymour’s family, as she met her husband there as a kid. Her father went to the camp, her mother-in-law was the director, and several other family members were cooks in the 1960s. Todd says he pretty much grew up at the campsite; he helped take care of it as a kid with his dad.

Administrators hope to rebuild, so the traditions can live on in their children and their children’s children.

“The buildings aren’t really what makes camp, it’s the people that have gone there. We can rebuild the buildings, but those memories are there and the fire couldn’t do anything to those,” Todd said.

Camp Monakiwa is accepting donations to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Donations can be made on its website at https://panhandleplainscampfire.square.site/

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