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Malibu summer camp closes on kids, animals

August 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Lazy J Ranch opened in Malibu in 1945, but after 64 years the camp is shutting down. Earlier this year the owner of the property passed away. The land was left to her daughter who has been unable to afford the inheritance tax on the land. She sold the property, which means by the fall Lazy J will be closing its gates for good.

It's the first day of summer camp and 11-year-old Tina Gonzalez is looking forward to roughing it for a week.

"It's going to be fun. I'm probably going to look forward to horseback riding, because I love horses," said Gonzales.

But by the end of the summer Gonzalez and hundreds of other children will be able to say they were the last to experience one of the oldest summer camps in Southern California.

"Lazy J ranch camp here in Malibu has been around since 1945 and because of the death of Mrs. Johnson, the original owner, the property has been sold and consequently it's being turned into a spa-type setting," said ranch director Craig Johnson.

The sale of the Lazy J Ranch means the end of an era. Courtney Hutcheson attended camp as a kid and is now the camp director.

"I've met all my friends here, I've had amazing experiences. I've learned how to surf, I've learn how kayak, I've taken care of animals, I've done the horseback riding program," said Hutcheson.

Along with the kids, the animals that have called the 140 acres home will now need to find a new place to graze.

"I'm really hoping that a lot of these animals find great homes," said Hutcheson. "We've love having them here and they are a part of our family so hopefully they can find a good home."

Camp organizers are planning to relocate this summer experience elsewhere. But after more than six decades of memories, some say it won't be same.

"When I heard about it, it made me kind of sad because when we took the first tour all we saw was happy kids and everyone had big smiles. To find out that this is going to be the last session is pretty sad," said Albert Gonzales.

Organizers say they will be offering a similar camp near Big Bear next summer.


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