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New cabin to be built at Camp Aldrich
BCC trustees consider larger building
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Firefighters attempt to control the blaze that destroyed the Trails End cabin at Camp Aldrich in this file photo from Aug. 10, 2018. Camp Aldrich is owned by Barton Community College, and trustees must decide what sort of cabin will replace the ruined structure.

Barton Community College trustees must decide whether to replace the Camp Aldrich cabin that was destroyed by fire last summer with something similar in size or to build a bigger cabin that can accommodate up to 192 beds.

Vice President of Administration Mark Dean presented the options Tuesday at a BCC Board of Trustees study session. The Trails End cabin at the Camp Aldrich conference center burned down on Aug. 8, 2018. Since then, Dean has been working with the insurance adjustors to agree on a replacement value. The insurance company has agreed to pay up to $616,000 for a building, plus the contents and architectural fees, less Barton’s $25,000 deductible. Whatever the college builds must include all required fire code upgrades and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Trustees were shown eight different layouts with capacities between 48 beds and 192 beds, based on one to four modules in a single building. 

Before it burned down, the Trails End Cabin was set up with 40-48 beds for large groups such as Camp Hope and a church camp that rents Camp Aldrich in the summer. Most of the beds were removed in the fall when the building was used as a hunting lodge. Dean said if the college builds a larger replacement for Trails End, it could tear down some of the older, smaller cabins on the grounds. “They’re not in good shape,” he said.

However, the Martin cabin could be kept and used as a hunting lodge with a kitchen. This would move campers into one building and eliminate the need to tear down and store beds during hunting season.

Cost comparisons 

Simply rebuilding a 48-bed cabin could be done for about $608,000. It would include an unfinished area for possible future expansion. A larger building will cost more money than the insurance will provide. The largest, four module addition with 192-bed capacity, would cost an estimated $1.3 million.

Trustee Don Learned said he liked the idea of one new cabin that could house an entire group, such as Camp Hope, which uses the facility annually. “Can we afford it?” he asked.

“We ought to see what additional revenue we could generate,” Dean said, recommending the larger building. “I don’t think we’re going to have this opportunity again.”

In the long run, one large cabin will save on utilities. And, once a new cabin is available, campers won’t be happy with the old ones, administrators said.

Trustee Gary Burke mentioned another reason to do away with older cabins. Trails Ends, like the Dining Hall that burned down in 2014, were old buildings that apparently caught fire because of electrical problems.

“With the history we have with two fires, that’s stupidity on our part,” Burke said of keeping the older buildings.

While trustees expressed interest in the larger cabins, Chairman Mike Johnson also noted the cost issue. “We must be careful not to strain relationships with existing donors,” he said.

Dean agreed that the college may not be able to raise donations for this project, although the Barton Foundation is open to donations. Substantial donations can even lead to contracts for “naming rights,” he noted. But either way, he recommends a larger cabin. “It will cost us more if we put it off until later,” he said.

Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said that because the college owns Camp Aldrich in perpetuity it has a responsibility to maintain a quality facility. “Now is the time to get rid of the old cabins,” he said. Heilman said the camp’s swimming pool also needs improvements.

Meetings are scheduled to work on “donor strategies” and the administration is working on next year’s budget Heilman said. “They go hand in hand.”