May 07, 2004
April 19, 1948--After two years of planning, the first class of elementary school students arrived at Camp Hi-Hill for a week-long outdoor education experience. The sixth graders from Roosevelt were the first of thousands to have the memorable experience in the Angeles National Forest. For many, it was the first time they’d gone to the mountains and experienced nature.
For J. Holley Ashcraft, it was a dream come true. He was the physical education department assistant to Walter Scott, supervisor and coordinating director of municipal recreation and school recreation, kindergarten through city college.
An avid fisherman and outdoorsman, Ashcraft believed the outdoor experience would provide a healthy, valuable learning experience to children who might otherwise never see the healthful scenery, plants, animals, geology and ecosystems nearby.
In 1946, Superintendent Kenneth E. Oberholtzer and Dr. Frank Harnett wanted to do more for youth in the community. With their approval, Ashcraft attended a national conference in Michigan to see what they were doing there to take city kids to study the out of doors. He heard that old Camp Singer, formerly a Girl Scout Camp owned by John Opid, might be available. Located near Mt. Wilson, it was directly inland from Long Beach and could be leased by the city. At that time the City of Long Beach and the school district participated in coordinated school and municipal recreation governed by the Long Beach Recreation Commission.
The city had held a naming contest. More than 3,000 names were submitted. Camp Hi-Hill was selected. Over the years it has been changed to Hi-Hill Outdoor Science School, but most often it’s simply called Hi-Hill by the students who have gone there.
In January 1949, the City of Long Beach bought the property and later sold it to the Long Beach Unified School District after the coordinated municipal-school recreation program had been discontinued.
Over the years, more than 250,000 students have experienced the hiking, cabins, memory sticks, camp songs, astronomy, rock collecting, bird watching, plant identification and the wonder of the water cycle, the food chain and discovering the plants, streams, insects and animals that exist in this very special place--thanks to the pioneer efforts of Holley Ashcraft.