This facility has historically been identified as the National Wounded Warrior Center. With the advent of the Fern Creek Lodge purchase, the facility will be formally renamed the Jack & Kathy Copeland Center at Fern Creek Lodge.
The Copeland Center is fully under the umbrella of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and will serve as the base for expanded and enhanced programs for military service members and veterans with disabilities.
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that’s been in operation since 2003 in Mammoth Lakes, California. DSES provides adaptive sports instruction and therapeutic outdoor recreation for people of any age and any disability. DSES offers state-of-the-art equipment and specialized teaching methodologies to support people pursuing their adaptive outdoor recreation goals. Whether a student wants to pursue competition in a given sport or simply feel the sensation of sliding down a snow-covered slope, DSES provides customized, one-on-one lessons for each athlete. We currently host specialized opportunities for veterans and military athletes each year. The positive impact of these programs, as seen through the participant, motivates us to enhance and expand these programs to help veterans learn, heal, and thrive.
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) provides adaptive therapeutic recreation programs in California’s majestic Eastern Sierra. DSES is dedicated to changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities by offering year-round sports and activities, creating inspiring challenges, providing expert instruction using the latest adaptive equipment, and rallying the community to embrace and accommodate people with disabilities. We believe the freedom and exhilaration of outdoor challenges inspires hope, expands confidence, and transforms lives. No one should be left behind simply because of a disability!
The Copeland Center is the main base for military programs designed to help veterans learn, heal, and thrive.
Anchored in a spectacular world class environment for therapeutic outdoor experiences, the facility will serve as a space for thoughtful, self-improvement program offerings. It will be operated by a rock-solid organization and staff, with 200+ passionate volunteers, and a Platinum Seal of Approval by Guidestar. DSES has an established track record in the training/renewal of veterans with disabilities - validated by testimonials from program participants whose lives have been changed. DSES military programming has also been supported by senior military leaders in veteran rehabilitation. The facility will be located along a peaceful and serene retreat-like space, with quaint, historic cabins nestled among the aspens of the June Lake Loop.
4,000,000 veterans receive VA disability benefits and military post-traumatic stress affects more than 2,800,000 veterans and their family members. 40,000 veterans were homeless in 2017, 11,500 in California. We feel that the need for assistance is crucial.
The facility will add capacity to significantly increase our ability to offer robust programming for military participants. The facility will also enable DSES to enhance its non-military program offerings. There will be further announcements about specific program offerings as they are launched.
DSES will remain based at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and actively engaged in the greater Mammoth Lakes community, where opportunities for skiing, riding, mountain biking, and more will continue.
The mix of participants will vary from week to week and will also vary over time as we determine the popularity and effectiveness of various program offerings, but we expect the majority of participants will be veterans. The campus hosts a number of independent cabins, which will give us the flexibility to efficiently offer a mix of programs at the same time, supporting a variety of individuals with disabilities and their families.
The facility will be used for veteran and civilian programs. Specific program offerings and eligibility for participation will be announced in the future.
DSES offers Paralympic Development and daily lessons for injured, ill, and wounded service members and veterans. DSES also offers two annual camps specifically for military athletes: Operation Mountain Freedom in the winter and Operation High Altitude in the summer. Both of these adaptive sport camps are for active duty and veteran athletes with disabilities. You can learn more current military programs and how to participate at Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. Our programs are open to all service members of all ages – that includes World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and beyond. We welcome all veterans with disabilities, whether or not it was a war injury.
All programming will include therapeutic outdoor recreation. Some programs will address topics like education and vocational programs, wellness, and housing assistance.
DSES has a long history of improving the lives of veterans and non-veterans of all ages through outdoor therapeutic recreation. The Copeland Center will enable us to enhance our current offerings in this area. At the facility, DSES will introduce new programs that support veterans as they pursue success in their civilian lives, including personal life planning and goal setting, education and internships, and other areas.
We are assessing this question now, and it will depend on a number of factors; e.g. remodeling disruption, staffing, etc. Our goal is to host initial residents in the summer of 2022.
There will be a range of residency programs, from one weekend to up to 6 months or more.
We project up to 200 military and veteran participants will use the facility each year staying a variety of time frames.
The facility will be funded with donor approved funds contributed to the National Wounded Warrior Center Capital Campaign, which has been underway in the Eastern Sierra for several years. The ongoing program expenses will be funded through continuing grants, selective program fees, and donations from generous DSES donors. Most military participants will not be subject to program fees.
DSES is not affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project - we are a different organization. Our military participants encompass all wounded, ill, or injured servicemen or women from any war or any time served in the military. Our programs are designed to be inclusive, supporting both active duty and veteran service members of any age, from any branch of service, with any illness or injury, combat-related or not.
Yes, there are still naming opportunities available associated with the facility. We are eager to discuss this further with current and future potential donors. Contact us at 760.934.0609 or LBeardsley@DisabledSportsEasternSierra.org.
We will be undergoing extensive renovation at the facility to improve accessibility and to modernize the buildings while preserving the historic character of the place.
The family of Jim Coats owned the Fern Creek Lodge for many years. Jim Coats had served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and he supported DSES throughout the years, with a special appreciation for the DSES military athlete programs. Upon the sale of the property to DSES, Jim Coats’ son Jon Coats said, “The family of Jim Coats know with absolute certainty that Jim/Dad/Grandpa would be so happy to know his Lodge survives as a unique, dedicated service for our (servicemen and women) and for their loved ones. It is for him a great ending, and for his family, a sincere farewell.”
Fern Creek Lodge history as told by the Coats family:
The June Lake Loop has been attracting people such as fishermen, hunters, and hikers since the 19th century. Its first inhabitants were the Paiute Indians of the Mono Basin. June Lake remained roadless until 1915 when a roadway was constructed up Rush Creek. A tramway was constructed using materials from an abandoned mine near Bodie, to aid the construction of two dams for Hydroelectric Power. The Rush Creek Hydroelectric project began supplying electricity by 1916.
During this time an employee named Roy Carson started the Loop’s first private resort, Carson’s camp, a tent camp until the first cabins were built in 1921. The largest cabin was utilized as a dining hall with a small area for a post office. This cabin is still in use as the store and restaurant for the historic Silver Lake Resort.
In 1924, the US Forest Service constructed an unpaved road from what is now Highway 395 to June Lake. Local residents continued the road to Silver Lake. This road made June Lake accessible and housing tracts formed as the second resort, Boulder Lodge was built. In 1927 the Ed J. Seymour Company announced the construction of June Lake Lodge, (now known as the Heidelberg Inn). The Lodge was to be operated in conjunction with a fish hatchery and fox farm, and included fifty rooms, a restaurant and bar, and a large four-sided fireplace in the lobby.
The hatchery produced an average of 1,000,000 small fish every year for the surrounding area's lakes and creeks. The fox farm was located near what is now the Pine Cliff area. Other camps and lodges sprung up, including Gull Lake Lodge, Fern Creek Lodge, Camp Culver, and Cherokee Lodge. With the expansion of the community and its new permanent residents, the necessity of a school arose. Established in 1933, the school was run out of Fern Creek Lodge and the first teacher, Mrs. Romana Power, earned $1,500.00 a year.