Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, Del.
By Jenny E. Beeh
For years, the camping registration office at Trap Pond State Park—Delaware's first state park—was, well, very minimal. In fact, you'd probably be exaggerating if you called it an office.
"It wasn't much bigger than a phone booth," says Bud Nash, statewide parks maintenance superintendent. "It really wasn't meeting our needs."
The 2,685-acre park offers 142 campsites on the pond's northern shore as well as two yurts and eight cabins, which translates into a busy recreational place during its March-to-November season. There are also plenty of daytime visitors, hikers and birdwatchers who come to explore the wetland forest.
Park administrators decided to build a 20-foot-by-42-foot log cabin to serve as a campground registration building, general store and satellite park office, all rolled into one.
"Basically, we saw a need for the building and store," Nash says. "It's about six to seven miles to the nearest loaf of bread or gallon of milk. We thought it would be a lot more convenient for campers."
It also proved convenient for local residents who discovered this new, nearby hub of commerce. The store racked up about $28,000 worth of sales its first year, stocking "a little bit of everything" from potato chips, candy bars and cookies to fishing and camping supplies and liquid-propane canisters.
What's even more interesting is the apparent ease of the construction process. The structure came as a pre-engineered log cabin kit from Conestoga Log Cabins, Inc. in Lebanon, Pa.
"Everything comes as a pack—the logs, electrical system, lights, roofing, beams, joists, blueprints—and is delivered by flatbed tractor trailer," Nash says. "They're very easy to put together."
For Trap Pond, prefab turned out to be pretty fab in comparison to a traditional construction project from scratch.
"We probably saved a month or two in construction time," Nash says. "When you factor in all the labor, it was cheaper buying the kit."
Nash estimates that it took about five park staffers (including himself), weather permitting, from mid-January through March to finish the building. The kit—including all materials and delivery—cost about $42,000. The company also has technical support staff available to answer any questions that may arise during construction.
The walls of the building are made of glue-laminated logs, while the floor is tongue-and-groove dense Southern-Yellow-Pine. Designed to be strong and weather-tight, the 1,277-square-foot building (which includes a loft) came with nine insulated windows, an exterior metal door, a pitch metal roof and a six-foot covered porch. All the components of a kit are pre-cut and manufactured. In Trap Pond's case, the park requested a custom-design interior since the building would be serving as a store requiring shelves and countertops. Heating and air-conditioning systems were added so the building could be used year round.
"It's been a big hit," Nash says of the new facility, which opened in March 2003.
Trap Pond State Park retains part of the freshwater wetlands that once covered much of the region and also features the northernmost natural stand of baldcypress trees in the United States. The pond was created in the late eighteenth century to power a sawmill for the harvest of large baldcypress from the area. The federal government later purchased the pond and surrounding farmland during the 1930s, and the Civilian Conservation Corps began to develop the area for recreation, becoming the "First State's" first state park in 1951.
"The new building blends in beautifully with the park," Nash says. "Trap Pond is a very wooded park. When you turn into the park, the store is your focal point. It's all been landscaped. It's really impressive. We get a lot of compliments."
For more information
Trap Pond State Park: www.destateparks.com/tpsp/tpsp.htm
Conestoga Log Cabins, Inc.: 717-306-4490