By Deb Everts
Highbanks Campgrounds recently opened Longhouse Lodge at Highbanks Campground, a new building on the premises that offers campers and the general public a unique place to gather.
Matt Kolb, who has managed the campground for four years, said when Highbanks reopened in 2015, they knew they had to build some kind of gathering house. He said with 40 cabins on the grounds, Highbanks is a place where people love to come and camp but there has never been one, large gathering place.
“We’ve been planning this for a while, but it wasn’t until we noticed that a couple of our cabins were getting beyond repair that we decided to try to repurpose them, instead of tearing them down and building something new,” he said. “We were able to salvage them and it worked great.”
Kolb said construction started last October when they started pouring concrete and getting all the foundation piers set in place. In November, they moved the cabins and set them on the site, then worked on renovating them all winter. He said it was finished for the July 4 weekend.
“This was a project that the Seneca Nation of Indians put together collectively and many of their departments, including their Department of Public Works and Department of Utilities, was part of it,” he said. “They basically sent all their laborers to Highbanks over the course of this last winter. With me and my team, and the Nation’s team, we built the lodge with all SNI employees.”
According to Kolb, they took two of their existing, but deteriorating, cabins that had their roofs comprised by a bad snowstorm. Rather than replace or repair the cabins, they picked them off their foundations and brought them together end-to-end onsite.
“The design for the lodge came from the structure of the chalets and we wanted it to look like it belonged here,” he said. “If people look closely at the outside, they will see the chalets built into it. It’s actually two cabins that were put together to make one big lodge. Then, we built the roof over the top and a nice deck on the front.”
Kolb said the site was once a wooded area of the campground. He said they cleared about 50 trees to open it up and make room for the lodge. Topsoil is coming soon, so the yard will be landscaped with grass where the kids can play, and there will be a nice fire ring out there.
The lodge was designed to be a gathering place for people staying at Highbanks or for the public to reserve for large gatherings. The building is centrally located right in the middle of the campgrounds. It’s close to the playground, the volleyball court and the pool. He said it’s ideal for the public to rent for birthday parties, reunions and meetings. The interior has space for up to 35 people and the deck outside will accommodate 40. He said it can be rented for an hour, a full eight-hour day or overnight.
“Some people come and spend the night here at the lodge and we bring in cots. So, if you have grandchildren, for instance, and your granddaughter or grandson wants to have a group of their friends for a big party and sleepover, you can rent the lodge for overnight,” Kolb said. “We have a couple of different options for setting up the lodge for different gatherings. It has a commercial kitchen with a huge commercial refrigerator and a number of eight-foot tables. For sleepovers, we have 12 cots that we bring in and people also bring in air mattresses.”
Highbanks Campground, located at 1370 West Perimeter Road just south of Steamburg, is open year-round. For more information about the Longhouse Lodge at Highbanks and its rental rates, call 1 (877) SNI-CAMP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit camphighbanks.com and Facebook.