Archivist fears for Bodie’s integrity |

Archivist fears for Bodie’s integrity

by Christy Chalmers

Bodie, Calif., could just as easily have been Bodie, Nev., but an official survey put the town on the California side of the state line.

Even so, residents of Nevada’s Comstock Lode areas flocked to Bodie in search of the next big thing when their fortunes in the Silver State played out, and Bodie became an important link to Northern Nevada, said state archivist Guy Rocha.

“Many of the first new citizens of Bodie were Nevadans,” said Rocha. “Many of those new residents were people who had lived on the Comstock, and they all saw this as the next great opportunity.”

The timing of Bodie’s first big boom year, 1877, coincided with a decline on the Comstock. Bodie was connected to Northern Nevada by several toll and freight roads, which made emigration easy for those who were inclined.

More than a century later, Nevadans are still heading to Bodie, but they’re doing it in one day, driving south to Bridgeport on Highway 395 and then catching California Highway 270 for the trip up to what Rocha says is one of the few true ghost towns.

Bodie boomed until 1881, gaining a reputation as a rugged and violent place. A famous quotation claims a child whose family was moving to Bodie uttered, “Goodbye, God, we’re going to Bodie.” Bodie’s supporters claimed the child really said, “Good, by God, we’re going to Bodie.”

Much of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1932. What remained was purchased in 1962 by the state of California, which turned it into a state park.

Rocha is an ardent supporter of California’s efforts to preserve the town, and he is skeptical about a private plan to build an RV park and camping area at the base of the road leading to Bodie.

“It’s truly a ghost town,” he said. “No other place is like Bodie. It’s not commercial. It’s the real thing.

“How many Bodies are there and how many RV parks are there? Bodie is a shrine to the American western mining experience. You can’t find another one.”

Bill Lapham, whose family is proposing the RV park, says the plans take those concerns into account.

“I think (critics) are afraid this thing is going to look like a Knotts Berry Farm or a Disneyland, and it’s not,” he said. “This is going to be down to earth, just like Bodie.”

The buildings will be single story, and only the naturally flat areas of the 13 acres the project will cover will be developed, Lapham said, which works out to less than 10 percent of the land. Building materials that blend in with the surrounding areas will be used.

Lapham said his grandmother granted the original deeds allowing highways 395 and 270 to cross the property, and he grew up exploring the area, as well as Bodie – before it was a park. Providing accommodations won’t harm Bodie’s ambience, he contends. If anything, it will help.

“I’ve caught guys panning for gold, digging, dumping trash, you name it,” he said. “There’s no control there now.”

An RV park would decrease traffic on the road to Bodie by giving visitors a place to leave their trailers and boats, and provide a convenient resting place, he said.

“It’s going to save on parking up there,” he said. “When we do this, it’s going to be done right. Maybe we could eventually have a shuttle. There’s a lot of things that are possible.”