Good foundation: Prep work nears completion on rental cabins at state park

Andrew D. Brosig

Building on the success of the first rental cabin at Crawford State Park here, preparation work is almost done for three additional cabins on the shores of Farlington Lake.

“Cabin one worked out well for us,” said David Goble, park superintendent for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at the state park. “We've stayed consistently booked about a month or two in advance.”

The three new cabins will be located on the west side of the lake, north of the first cabin site, on Evening Breeze Point across a small bay from the marina and beach area.

Goble and his staff were working last week, digging the footings for the northern-most of the three cabins. Concrete foundations are already in place and waiting for the cabins to be delivered at the other two sites.

The cabins are being built by inmates of the Hutchinson State Correctional Facility in a cooperative project of the Kansas Department of Corrections, KDWP and the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush.

The project is good for both inmates and visitors to Kansas state parks, Goble said. Parks get the cabins, which arrive complete and ready to install on the waiting foundations, at cost. And the inmates learn useful skills they can use once they return to society.

Steve Schneider, public information officer at Hutchinson Correctional Facility, called the project a “win-win” for all parties involved.

“We're constantly struggling to find jobs to keep our inmates occupied,” Schneider said. “And this program gives the inmates marketable skills they can use upon their release.”

Currently, 26 inmates from a possible pool of about 720 medium- and minimum-security inmates are building the cabins in Hutchinson. The workers learn the skills they need from vocational education specialists employed by Greenbush.

Schneider said there's currently a back-log of orders for approximately 100 cabins, destined for KDWP-administered parks around the state.

Participation in the program is merit-based, Schneider said. It's a useful tool to help maintain discipline at the facility.

“Inmates have to have a good conduct record before they can even be assigned to the project,” he said. “This gives them an incentive for them to maintain that good conduct.

“I've heard good comments from the inmates, they speak very highly of the program. They feel they're making a contribution and giving something back to the people of the state.”

Goble said he anticipates delivery of the three cabins this fall, probably late October or early November. The cabins will comply with all access requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he said.

Each cabin will be about 16-feet by 43-feet, with the long dimension including a 10-foot covered porch. Inside the approximately 500-square-foot living space, there will be a master bedroom, built to hotel ADA standards — meaning there will be room to maneuver a wheelchair all the way around the bed — a bathroom and living/kitchen area. In addition to the master bedroom, each cabin will have a Murphy-style bed built into the wall and two futons.

Each cabin will sleep a family comfortably, Goble said. And the orientation on Evening Breeze Point will provide some privacy for the people renting the cabins.

“They're set so they're not really close together and they're laid out to where they face away from their neighbors,” Goble said. “While they're still going to be in a fairly small area, it will give the illusion of being private on the lake.”

Along with the final site preparation, there's still some landscaping to do in the cabin area, Goble said. Some of the underbrush will be removed, while keeping the larger trees in place, and the shoreline will be contoured to provide easier access for fishing and swimming.

There will also be a private dock with space for four boats — one for each cabin and one for the site manager. People will have to launch their boats at the marina but will be able to tie up right outside their front door.

“When we're done, there will be a beautiful view of the lake from all three cabins,” he said. “You'll be literally lake front. I imagine these will be prime during fireworks time.”

The cabins cost about $40,000 each to construct, complete with furnishings and appliances. Preparing the site, including connecting to rural water and power distribution systems, cost about $26,000, Goble said. Crawford State Park received a $10,000 donation to help kick off the project locally, he said. Because they're slightly smaller, rental rates will be less expensive.

During prime-use season, from April 1 to Sept. 30, the new cabins will cost $85 per night on Friday and Saturday and $65 a night Sunday through Thursday. The rate decreases $10 for off-season rentals.

Goble said he's already made plans for when the cabins are completed.

“When we're all done, it will come out super nice,” he said. “I want to be able to sit on the porch with my morning cup of coffee, watch the sunrise and enjoy that nice, peaceful lake experience.”

Girard Press