WASAGAMING — Small stubborn piles of dirty snow still dot Clear Lake’s old campground, but cabin owners itching to start summer returned to their sanctuaries that have evolved and bend the definition of “cabin.”
About 90 per cent of the cabins now have access to water and sewer service as of this season, an evolution that took years to become reality and created a deep rift between owners. Along with the added creature city comforts, the campgrounds roads, still dug up in the aftermath of the water installation, will be paved over.
What started as a campground transformed into a small community of cabins in the 1980s — small, single-storey dwellings with small footprints. The owners shared community washrooms, showers and cook huts which will, at least for the meantime, remain. Over the last several years, the allowable size of the cabins has grown, so too have the prices and the actual size of the park. One of the 16-foot by 24-foot old campground cabins, for example, is selling for $85,000.
According to Clear Lake Cabin Association president Brian McVicar, there have been more than 50 applications to the park for new builds, renovations and additions since January alone, something he said has no doubt been because of new plumbing possibilities.
And Parks Canada cleared extra space to include 30 new lots and many are champing at the bit to build.
“The plan is to keep the existing communal washrooms and the shower building for as long as we can,” he said. “That was the major compromise that swayed the board to go with water and sewer. A lot of people didn’t want to give up the communal washrooms because they didn’t want to be forced to put in a washroom. That was loud and clear.”
Water service is the area’s next evolutionary step, as some put it. McVicar recalled an owner who had a phone installed at his cabin several years ago, who got some raised eyebrows.
“You can’t fight it,” one 29-year cabin owner said, who declined to give his name. “It was going to happen eventually.”
Riding Mountain National Park, which has the final say in the area, said last year it supports the hookups, citing environmental concerns from waste water in the community.
According to Parks Canada, federal regulation requires buildings in national parks to be hooked up to sewer and water where there are existing lines in front of the property, and since the park installed new plumbing in the 1990s for shared washrooms, a large portion of the campground falls under the regulation.
The area has also switched from one-year campground permits to 42-year leases through Parks Canada, allowing cabin owners to mortgage properties because they are now considered real estate in the eyes of mortgage lenders.
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