The Hill County Park Board discussed several Beaver Creek Park issues at its meeting Monday that all came back to the same basic theme: The board needs to be actively involved in the general activities of the park and to be actively planning its future.
Some of the top issues involved improvements to cabins, management of large events on the park, annual cabin inspections and setting a long-term strategic plan for the park.
The board agreed after discussion of several issues, in a meeting that lasted nearly two hours, that a key is making sure people know they need talk to the park superintendent about their plans, and the superintendent will refer them to the board as needed.
All on the board agreed that improvements to the park and use of the park shouldn’t be stifled, but that the board needs to supervise activities.
Board Chair Steve Mariani said the problem is “when people just go and do it without asking permission. ”
The first discussion was on improvements to cabins people own on land they lease from the park board. Some changes have been made to cabins and improvements made to cabin sites that may go beyond the board’s vision of what Beaver Creek Park is supposed to be, board members said.
The board agreed to send a letter out to all cabin owners reminding them that if they plan improvements beyond general maintenance, they need to talk to Park Superintendent Chad Edgar, and he can refer the plans to the board as needed.
Board member Robbie Lucke said the park board needs to be involved in major decisions.
“Either we’re here with a reason, as a board, or we’re not here for a reason, ” he said.
Board member Mike Wendland, also chair of the Hill County Commission, endorsed the suggestion that the letter be sent and a suggestion by Mariani that brief newsletters could be sent to groups such as the cabin owners and the ranchers who lease cattle grazing on the park.
Letters or a newsletter could include issues like the need to bring improvements to the superintendent and ultimately the board without being negative, Wendland said.
“I think a newsletter is probably a good idea, lead with a carrot instead of a stick, ” he said.
The group also discussed what issues need to be brought before the board.
Havreite Lou Hagener, who attended the meeting, said one problem is deciding what is a large project.
“Large to you might not be large to somebody else and major might not be major, ” he said. “If it’s maintenance there’s really not much of an issue. If it’s somehow improving the property, improving the structure or something like, that then this board needs to deal with it... they need to talk to Chad. ”
Edgar said he doesn’t want to see improvements to cabins stop happening — in the nine or so years he has been superintendent, major improvements to the park have occurred, he said.
But, he added, there has to be supervision on the improvements.
“They can’t have Taj Mahals out there. They can’t have a 10,000-foot (concrete) slab out in front of the cabin either, ” he said. “That’s kind of what we are trying to avoid. ”
Lucke also said he would like the board to come up with a different system to hold the cabin inspections. So few board members generally go on the inspections of the cabins, held twice a year, that many items are being missed, he said.
Mariani said that, with a checklist the park is now using, most of the cabins can be inspected very quickly and the board members doing the inspection can focus on cabins with problems noted by Edgar or in previous inspections.
Lucke suggested that the checklists being used be sent to the cabin owners after each inspection.
“It might help them, ” he said.
“It would help a lot, ” Mariani added. “They would know what we are looking for. ”
Rose Cloninger of the park cabin owners association, and other members of the board, endorsed sending the inspection checklist to the cabin owners.
The same consensus to involve the board and the park users came out of another issue — large gatherings in areas of the park outside of reserved camp sites.
Lucke said he has had complaints about activities or gatherings prohibiting access to cabins because of the cars or portable outhouses used blocking roads. He said, last fall, one activity even kept the board members from accessing cabins for its semi-annual cabin inspection.
Mariani said, again, people need to go through Edgar, and he can bring requests to the board if needed.
“I have problems with them not asking, ” Mariani said, adding that if the board approved events, they would know when and where they would be and how many people the park staff can expect, parking could be managed to guarantee access, and so on.
He said he, again, liked the idea of simply spreading the word to let people and organizations know they need to contact Edgar and possibly bring their requests to the board.
“I still like the carrot instead of the stick, ” he said.
And the board also agreed to move forward with being active in planning the future of the park.
Mariani said he still wants to move forward with that idea and said he wants to bring in a facilitator to direct the next meeting on the issue. A meeting held on the topic in May was haphazard, he said.
He suggested contacting someone to act as a facilitator, and setting up a meeting after the summer season and after cattle are brought in to graze after Labor Day.
Hagener, who brought the strategic planning suggestion to the board last winter, brought two pages of notes he had written up from surveys conducted and from the May planning meeting
“These are just talking points about strategic planning. This... is not really the time for comment or criticism, it’s the time to start building on what we want to have …, ” Hagener said. “There are lots of ideas on what we want to have on the park. … Change is happening. We can’t just be sitting still. ”