SIOUX CITY – Cabins are in vogue in Woodbury County parks, as there are eight to choose from on the east and west areas of the county.

A decade ago in 2001, the county joined the trend of other counties offering cabins to go along with camping opportunities, much like state parks had done for years. Woodbury County Conservation Department Director Rick Schneider said the four 300-square-foot cabins at Little Sioux Park south of Correctionville were quickly embraced by 2002.

“They took off like fire,” Schneider said. “Those (four) have been paid back already.”

That success led the county supervisors to sell bonds to improve Snyder Bend Park, finally getting a paved road and building four cabins that are much more upscale than the Spartan versions at Little Sioux Park.

The county borrowed $900,000 for conservation department projects on a 2.95 percent note that will be paid back by 2020. The paved road also was a goal going back at least 40 years, since fishermen have griped about the dusty entrance, Schneider said.

“That was just a dream come true, to have that road down there. It immediately resulted in increased usage,” he said.

The new cabins opened in May 2010 on the south side of Snyder Bend Park, which has been given more amenities in recent years. The cabins are sized at 816 square feet, with a full bathroom, shower and two separated bedrooms. They also have flatscreen televisions.

“We went big with four of these units, and these were going to be different. We wanted to have a lot larger cabins that were full-family cabins, like small cottages ... People are wanting more amenities,” Schneider said.

The cost for a night in a Little Sioux cabin is $50 and $125 at Snyder Bend.

Spurred by solid word-of-mouth by users, Schneider said the cabins have had high occupancy rates at both parks. The cabins are heavily sought from Memorial Day to Labor Day holidays, and there was an 85 percent occupancy rate at Little Sioux Park in July 2010. Over at Snyder Bend, there were 170 nights with rentals, after Schneider had figured there would be about 100.

“I’d be really pleased to see 200 nights in the second year,” Schneider said.

He said there are no solid plans to add more cabins in the near future, but some thought is being given to some very basic units at Southwood Park along Iowa Highway 141 near Smithland. Those would be welcomed by hunters who flock to the area, Schneider said.

“That is way out there in some long-range planning we’re talking about,” he said.

One project to be experienced in 2011 includes the April addition of new exhibits at Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, which adjoins Stone State Park in Sioux City.

Schneider has been department director since March 1975, and said the county has sought to provide a lot of recreational options. The county has a lot of camping, fishing, boating and hiking areas, along with canoe access on rivers and playgrounds and shelterhouses.

“We’ve made some great strides and really nice improvements in all our parks,” Schneider said.

“We’ve been trying all these years to meet the needs of the public.”

He figured with gas prices having already reached $3.50 per gallon in March, area people will be looking for closer spots to relax.

“With the skyrocketing fuel prices, we’ll probably see good usage of our camping and other park facilities this summer,” Schneider said.

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