Groups asks Bethel to retain ownership of cabins

December 15th, 2006    Author: Rodney Beckwith    Filed Under: News

Officially, progress is still in state of stalemate concerning two historical log cabins located in Bethel’s Burke Park.

Deteriorating and potentially dangerous due to their condition, the cabins had been earmarked for sale to an out-of-state buyer who planned to remove them and rebuild them in a different location, but an effort from local history enthusiasts halted that. However, no definite plans have been made as to the ultimate fate of the cabins.

A large delegation of members from that committee, the Burke Park Log Cabin Committee, which formed in October to find a way to keep the cabins local, were present to show their support for the planned update to council concerning the cabins.

“We appreciate the time you gave us to look into the condition of the cabins and the restoration possibilities of the cabins,” said cabin committee chairman Ron Shouse. “There has been a deep concern by the residents of the village, township and county about the removal of these cabins from Burke Park. I’m asking you to focus tonight on the hard work these people have done and realize with the cooperation of council how far we can take this project that will benefit the citizens of this town and county wide.”

The committee, which is seeking to protect and preserve the cabins in their current location, said that they have come up with a series of estimates for the dismantling, repair and rebuilding of the cabins.

Currently, there are two cabins, one set up like a house and the other like a blacksmith shop, which are used throughout the year for special events featuring a living history display. Most recently, the Bethel Down Home Christmas featured educational historical events centered around the cabins. The cost to fix the cabins to the specifications of the committee, said Shouse, will be more than $50,000.

"With the pricing of these two units, we'll have to split the project into two phases," said Shouse. "That way, we can utilize what funding we have in the first phase to renovate the cabin and landscape around it, and then go back and do the blacksmith shop and landscape around it. The total estimated cost of renovation and landscaping to both structures is $56,800. That's a very doable number with the grant system in our area."

Shouse said that some of the work will be completed by volunteers, instilling a sense of ownership and keeping costs down. The goal, though, is to create a living history display that can be used, and frequently.

"If we're going to put money into these cabins, we have to have a usage for them," said Shouse. "It would be ridiculous for us to do this, put all of our time into this, and not utilize them as we should."

Shouse called the benefits of using the cabins limitless, especially for the village, which could receive a fair amount of promotion through the log cabins. Programs like dulcimer classes and programs, basket weaving programs, blacksmithing demonstrations, herb programs, games and crafts for kids and hikes led by naturalists could be scheduled on a monthly basis, said Shouse, and could attract a lot of people to the village.

"We have a great town where people can come to raise a family," said Shouse. "This gives people an opportunity to come together. If completed, the benefits would be limitless. It will instill a sense of pride in our community. We hope it will encourage out-of-town guests to visit."

The village had entertained the notion of giving the cabins to the local historical society, but Shouse asked that they be left in the hands of the village.

"We've put a lot of hours into this work," said Shouse. "If we're going to put more into it, and you decide that it's not going to be, then we've wasted our time."

"I think you've demonstrated the passion behind it, and that there's interest, and we didn't see that before," said councilman Tim Cherry. "Now that you're actually demonstrating it, there's more than words out there. There's action. See if you can pull together a schedule as to when you'd be looking at physically doing something and give us a good idea of funding by January."

Shouse said that a timeline is still doubtful, given the holiday season and uncertainty about what will happen to the cabins. However, he said that the village could be guaranteed of action on the committee's part no matter how long it takes.

"It will take some time," said Shouse. "I can't tell you for sure, but even if it's 36 months from now, this organization will still be together, still be cranking to get this done. If you've ever been in a project that requires funding from outside sources, sometimes they can be slow. We just can't go totally into this, do fund-raisers, and then six months down the road have council say they're moving the cabins. We need your support."

The village agreed to table the discussion for the time being, and also plans to have their insurance company inspect the cabins to ensure that they currently post no danger to park goers.

"There's no question of our support," said councilman John Swarthout. "We just weren't ready to throw $46,000 at something that was going to deteriorate. I can't speak for everybody, but I sure they think this is great. Let's go for it."

The council also announced a public hearing for the 2007 budget for Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and their plans to hire another full-time police officer. The council also saw a presentation from CDS Associates concerning the construction of a new municipal building.
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