Of all the questions one might ask a County Conservation staff member, the most frequent of late is, "Hey, are the cabins done?" The answer is "not yet," but since you asked, what follows is a longer response, including another request for cabin names.
After months of planning and gathering information, lining up the installation of utilities, and securing financial resources, the labor began on three cabins at Martin's Access on May 12, 2009.
The Cherokee County Conservation Board supports three full time employees year-round. This summer, the department added five temporary and part-time workers to round out the crew for its busiest season in years.
Anywhere from one to five employees worked on the cabins almost every day from June through August, while the team also maintained five campgrounds around the county, staffed the office and kept up with rental facilities at Silver Sioux Park in rural Quimby.
Camping revenue for the 2009 season was more than double that of Summer 2008, and the Silver Sioux Lodge was rented all but four weekends from May 1 through Sept. 30.
Canoe and kayak rentals, mowing, maintaining equipment and habitat management rounded out the slate of tasks covered by this year's crew. By late August, all of the part-time and temporary help was gone for the season, and the mowing, camping, facility rentals, habitat work and cabin building continued with a slimmer crew.
Since Sept. 1, the staff has completed most of the exterior work on the cabins, finishing siding, trimming and painting. The dirt piles and trenches that remained after electrical, water and septic tank installation have been smoothed over and seeded with grasses.
Landscaping blocks and gravel have been placed around the foundations. Rainy weather back in August allowed some interior finishing, so one cabin is nearer completion than the other two. The entire interior will be durably finished in knotty pine.
Each cabin will be available to rent year-round. They are efficiently heated and cooled. Each will include a restroom with a shower, a kitchenette, table and benches, and two queen-size bunk beds.
The board is considering wireless internet service for the park, but in the spirit of quiet wilderness that attracts visitors to Martin's Access, the cabins will not be furnished with audio/visual technology.
While these cabins are roomier, at 16 by 22 feet, and newer than others in the region, nightly rent is anticipated to begin at $60, the "going rate" for a modern cabin in a public park.
Funding for the cabins has come from several sources. The County Supervisors gave a generous $60,000 of Rural Betterment Funds, from Local Option Sales Tax revenue, to the Conservation Board for utilities and cabin construction. The Conservation Board has also used REAP funds, received annually from the state, private donations, and camping revenue to pay for materials, equipment and contractors.
Full time employees, primarily Chad Brown, Field Operations Supervisor, and Ginger Walker, Director, have completed the majority of the labor.
With interior finish work and some plumbing and electrical installation remaining, the cabins will be completed at or under budget. The entire project, including utilities and septic systems, was projected to cost about $90,000. Revenue from cabin rentals is anticipated at $15,000 - $20,000 annually.
Future development in the cabin area will be dependent on additional funding. Campsites, day-use parking for horse trailers, a playground, and additional landscaping are priorities currently under consideration. Additional cabins are part of the long-range plan.
In the immediate future, however, the first three cabins still need names. The CCCB has received three official cabin name suggestions from the public. CCCB staff will select names for the cabins, and everyone whose cabin name is approved will receive a free weekend in a Martin's Access cabin.
The cabins are about 100 yards from the newer red gate at 4594 Martin Access Road, which will continue to be locked when unattended until additional barricades and fences are in place within the park.
Everyone is welcome to walk in to look them over. Names should be mailed to CCCB, 629 River Rd, Cherokee, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The naming contest will carry on until the cabins reach completion.