The first residents to use the Hesperia Recreation and Park District's newest facility are among the district's youngest.

When the John Swisher Community Center at Hesperia Lake Park opened for business for the first time on Friday, it was for the Hesperia Lake Kids Camp, where campers will fish, learn about High Desert plants and wildlife and model aviation, among other activities.

The community center also houses a portion of the John Swisher Museum Collection, featuring various pieces from the High Desert historian's collection.

"John has a variety of things he's collected over the years," said recreation and park district General Manager Cal Camara. "Everything from farm equipment to pipes to news articles and historical books. ... Then he has a significant collection of Hesperia items."

Some of his collection is at the Victor Valley Museum and some of it is at the Harrison Exhibit Center on Main Street.

"Then we have another diversified collection that's at the John Swisher Community Center."

The community center has been years in coming, and has gone through a number of changes in direction along the way.

"It's really been going on for 15 or 16 years," said Camara. "Years and years ago, [the late Hesperia architect] Nader Khalili, from Cal-Earth ... he went to the city ... and he was trying to find an affordable way to build homes, dome homes."

Khalili's biggest claim to fame was what he called his "super adobe" building technique, which could turn easily assembled sandbags into concrete building blocks. He envisioned the technique being used to build low cost housing for disaster victims and even NASA using it to build shelters on the moon and Mars.

The park district already had plans to build a community center at the park, and liked Khalili's plan to build it using non-governmental funds. But grant funds proved harder to come by than expected and the project languished.

"Eventually the decision was made, 'look, it's an interesting design, we've got the foundations down, let's just go with conventional construction and send it out to bid.'"

Seven months later, the center is open for business.

"I'm still working on a lot of [what will be done with it]. It's going to be a community center, so it's going to have kid classes. I'd like to start some adult classes," said Camara. "Once we get it landscaped, and we're working on some ideas now, I'd like to put up, not a gazebo, but something nice out there for outdoor dining, because there is a catering [kitchen] there. ... So it'd probably be rented every weekend."

But once again, the community center plans will be delayed by financial realities.

"Some of the amenities will cost a little bit of money, and these are tough times right now," Camara said. "But never say die."

For more information about the Hesperia Lake kids camp program, call 244-5488.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at