SANTA CRUZ, Calif. â€” Cloaked within a redwood grove on the north side of the University of California-Santa Cruz campus is a place that many students do not even know exists, but for others is the unique, picturesque and serene community where they bought their first home before they turned 21 â€” the Camper Park.
The students who live in the 42-space park choose to live here because they identify with the social environment and tight-knit, communal living. The residents sip morning tea together, help each other out with chores and maintenance, teach each other how to play instruments and other skills, and, in general, seem to be on the same wavelength.
Just before noon Friday The Beatlesâ€™ â€œYellow Submarineâ€ seeped through the walls of the first camper on the circular road. The very next camper in the line was actually painted egg-yolk yellow and had the words
â€œWe all live in a yellow submarineâ€ written on the side.
â€œI heard stories about this place from friends,â€ said Nate Kandus, a Santa Cruz student who lived in the park from 2007 to 2010 and was back visiting. â€œWhen I came up here I saw that it was purely magical. Itâ€™s an inspired, intentional community that allows for self exploration and growth for all its residents.â€
A stroll through the park reveals gardens, sculptures, piles of bike tires and colorfully decorated and painted campers in every shape and size, many of them with names on the exterior such as â€œThe Glory Wagonâ€ and â€œCreamcicle.â€
In the center of the park is a community area with laundry facilities, a kitchen, restrooms and showers. Every Wednesday and Sunday the residents hold a potluck dinner open to all comers. The residents call themselves â€œparkies,â€ and hold a â€œTrailer Park Olympicsâ€ every year, using unconventional competitions as an ice breaker.
â€œThe park is a really strong community,â€ said resident Caileen Brandt, 21, whose remark was echoed with a â€œHell yea,â€ from fellow park resident Will Lee.
â€œItâ€™s like a co-op more than a dorm,â€ Brandt said. â€œIt is mostly student run, and we are responsible for our own community. We keep it clean and make sure we are responsible campus neighbors. If someone is causing problems, we will solve it as a community, but we may have to expedite them off the island.â€