A heavy topic rose to the top of a discussion at the Hill County Park Board meeting this week — concrete.
Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Chad Edgar told the park board that a cabin owner wanted to make improvements to a cabin — which met the requirements of the park — but also wanted to add a concrete patio. Edgar asked for direction about what can be allowed for pouring concrete at cabins, where the intent of the park is to maintain a rustic front.
The board agreed, after a sometimes heated discussion, to table the question of how much, if any concrete would be allowed, and to split the improvement request and allow the main part of the improvement while delaying the vote on the concrete patio.
Edgar said the pad requested was 13-foot by 17-foot.
“I don’t think it’s going to be ugly or anything like that, and I think its probably going to enhance his cabin site, but how much is too much? ” he asked at the beginning of the discussion.
After the topic arose at last month’s board meeting, Edgar sent a letter to cabin owners reminding them that if major work is planned on a cabin, it should be discussed with the superintendent and brought to the board as needed.
Board member Robbie Lucke said he wants to prevent concrete being poured at all, outside of footings on pylons to support cabins. The intent of the park is to be rustic, and rules are that any items put on leased space have to be removable.
Lucke said that, when he was a boy, he saw Charles Russell’s cabin near Great Falls. Russell made paths using gravel, with small wooden shakes to hold the gravel in place, and he has emulated that at his cabins, Lucke said.
“If it’s good enough for Charlie Russell, it should be good enough for our cabins, ” he said.
Lucke said allowing any concrete would make it impossible to regulate — starting with a 25-foot sidewalk would lead to 30-foot sidewalks and 40-foot sidewalks, he said.
“Pretty soon you have a driveway, ” Hill County Commissioner and park board member Kathy Bessette added.
Bessette said she at least partially agreed with Lucke, but wanted the board to discuss if any concrete would be allowed on cabin sites.
“I think the only answer is no cement, because then you have a case closed, ” Lucke said. “It’s really a simple answer. ”
Edgar said he disagreed.
The park board already has allowed concrete to be poured at campsites, and with sidewalks, he said. A major issue is making sites handicap-accessible, he added.
“My feeling is, concrete is a lot better than gravel for that kind of use but … I think there has to be a limit on it, and we need to decide what the limit is, ” Edgar said.
Board Vice Chair Larry Kinsella, who chaired Monday’s meeting, said he agreed.
“They’re leasing the site (and) I kind of feel they can do within that site what they want to do, ” he said.
Cabin owner Blanche Kellam said she thinks the board needs to set specific limits on what would be allowed before voting on whether concrete would be allowed — if the limits are not set, Edgar would be flooded with requests, she said.
“You’re going to be opening Pandora’s Box, ” she said. “I have to say, personally, I am not 100 percent against (concrete patios), but I think they need to be small patios. ”
Edgar added that a major issue is making sure people bring their proposals to him, and the board as needed, before making improvements.
“That’s the battle we’re fighting right now is unapproved improvements to cabins, ” he said.