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Historian, neighbors call for Yeomalt cabin restoration

Several criticize the park district for letting the building fall into dilapidation.

The park district may hold off on dismantling the ailing Camp Yeomalt cabin, if measurable steps are made to preserve it, park officials said Thursday.

“We’ve seen two false starts to try to save the cabin,” park district Director Terry Lande said. “But as long as progress is being made, the deadline can be extended.”

The district had planned to dismantle the 70-year-old cabin by June 1, just before children convene at the former Boy Scout camp for summer activities. With logs crumbling from rot and infestation, Lande said, the cabin is a unsafe and a possible liability risk for the district.

Some attendees at the district board meeting Thursday night meeting took the district to task for not taking earlier steps to save the cabin.

“The park district should be ashamed for not making any effort to maintain that beautiful building,” Richard LaBotz told boardmembers. “It’s bizarre that we have to come and plead with you to do something in the future because you haven’t done a damn thing in the past.”

Jim Gartrell, who lives a block away from the camp, said the cabin’s sorry state has negatively impacted the area. He criticized the district for not replacing ripped tarps that protected a failing roof and for not making other repairs.

“We thought it would be kind of nice to live by log cabin nearby that was in a park,” Gartrell said. “But the building and grounds have not been maintained. It’s our neighborhood and we want it dealt with well. The cabin should not be looked at as the orphan child of the parks.”

Park board chair Kirk Robinson hinted that the district could have done more to preserve the cabin, which it inherited in 1987 after the Boy Scouts could no longer maintain it.

“I don’t know if (saving) this is about having a tarp or not having a tarp, but we should had people there to replace it,” he said. “Yeomalt is further from our maintenance area. Does Yeomalt suffer because of that? Probably.”

District officials stressed that funding is not available to fix the cabin’s many structural problems.

“We run on a shoestring budget and depend on our stakeholders, whether it be the soccer folks, the Little League folks or the trail folks” Robinson said.

Local historian Jerry Elfendahl said he hopes to galvanize the “history folks” to help him implement a detailed plan he’s crafted to save the building.

“Does anyone think it’s not historic?” he asked. “Does anyone think it’s not worth saving? No one thinks that. Now we need to find a way to do it.”

Initial steps include enlisting an engineer to evaluate the cabin’s integrity and salvageability.

This will coincide with a fundraising effort to gather the $100,000 to $500,000 necessary to save the building. With the Bainbridge Island Historical Society’s endorsement, Elfendahl also plans to nominate the 1935 cabin for inclusion in the Washington Trust for Historic Preservations list of most endangered historic properties.

The society’s curator, Lorraine Vokolek Scott, said inclusion on the list could boost the preservation effort’s profile and help with fund raising.

“Money is the big question, so we’ll be asking for donations,” said Elfendahl.

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