Big Bear Southwest Shore Colony Association

The Big Bear Southwest Shore Colony Association is a volunteer organization that administers various projects and issues that are of common concern to all cabin owners in the Southwest Shore Colony. The Association also monitors cabin owner compliance with the Operating Plan and Architectural Standards (see below). The Association facilitates interaction among cabin owners, and also communicates with the U.S. Forest Service, generally through the Forest Service Special Permits Administrator for the Big Bear region of the San Bernardino National Forest, who is in charge of administering the operation and regulation of Forest Service cabins in the Big Bear Tract.

Administration of the Association has largely been done on an informal, ad hoc basis by volunteer cabin owners, led by a president, secretary-treasurer, and a steering committee. Owners volunteer for specific tasks or projects as needed. The Association holds an annual meeting each summer to review the prior year's events and discuss upcoming issues. The Association communicates with the cabin owners during the year using electronic newsletters and this website regarding various projects and issues that affect the value and enjoyment of the Southwest Shore Colony.

Operating Plan and Architectural Appearance Standards

The Big Bear Southwest Shore Colony is an officially recognized federal and California historic district, eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, based upon the neighborhood’s age, history, architectural integrity and consistency, and particularly the fact that the overall appearance of the cabins and surrounding area have not changed much since first constructed in the 1911-1941 era. The U.S. Forest Service and the Colony residents recognize their mutual obligations to protect and preserve these historic resources. The Southwest Shore Operating Plan and Architectural Appearance Standards reflect and define such obligations.  In that Plan, among other provisions, the US Forest Service commits not to take any action to draw public interest to the Colony or increase public use of the area, due to the existing high public use and the interests of protecting the Colony’s historic resources and rare plants. Follow this link to view a copy of the Southwest Shore Colony Operating Plan and Architectural Appearance Standards dated July 1, 1998.

Eligibility for National Register of Historic Places

The Forest Service is now actively encouraging historic analysis and preservation of cabin structures. That was not always the case. During the 1970's the Forest Service seriously considered destroying the Southwest Shore Colony, and converting the land into a public campground. Our Southwest Shore Colony Association was a leader in recognizing the significance and value of preserving the historic nature of our Colony. In order to save the Colony from destructive action, the Association undertook substantial research and analysis about the historical importance of the Colony's history and architecture. Ultimately, in the early 1980's, the Association successfully made their case to the California Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which determined that the Southwest Shore Colony was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places

The SHPO is the sole official administrator and keeper, within California, of the National Register of Historic Places.  SHPO determined, after investigation and by written formal decision in the early 1980s, that the Colony is eligible for listing on the National Register.  But, eligibility alone does not technically place us on the National Register, because the rules do not permit such registration without the consent of the landowner (in this case the USFS).  The Forest Service has never gone to the trouble of requesting our listing on the Register, despite advising us in writing of their intention to do so. However, at the same time the USFS has fully accepted our eligibility status and all corresponding legal protections and obligations. Indeed, the higher officials in the Forest Service cited that status as its basis for cancelling the Big Bear Ranger’s plans to evict the cabins and turn the Southwest Shore into a public campground. The Forest Service also has agreed to implement our eligibility status through adoption of the Southwest Shore Operating Plan and Architectural Standards, and the inclusion of that document as part of our 2008-2028 permits. 

For our part, we have therefore determined that the SHPO decision as a practical matter gives us all of the legal protections of a formal National Register listing. At the same time, again as a practical matter, the lack of a formal National Register listing carries some advantages for us, such as insulating us from a public listing and signage that probably would have made us a target for tourists, tourist guidebooks, and organized tours.  For that reason we have not pushed or demanded further action by the Forest Service regarding any formal listing on the National Register. 

Also, in any event, the National Historic Preservation Act status protects us only against Federally-funded projects, which, in view of the USFS acquiescence, has given us just about all we can get from the eligibility determination.  The only other presently foreseeable Federal project threat that might arise would be the possible redevelopment of Highway 18, which is itself independently protected by both the National Historic Preservation Act and also the Federal Scenic Highways/Byways statute. As a National Register-eligible historic architectural resource, the Colony’s connection to Highway 18 and the limitations we place upon future highway development, has already been emphatically affirmed by the Cal-Trans route study related to the new Bear Valley Bridge .