Anyone who has tried to rent a cabin during peak season at Allegany State Park realizes the chances may be slim – especially if a large group of campers is involved, or if the goal is a premium cabin.
That’s why recent plans calling for the construction of 28 upscale cabins in the park have stirred so much interest.
Work on the project – the first addition to Allegany’s stock of 344 cabins in almost 15 years – began earlier this month, according to developer Mark Barbera of ASP (Allegany State Park) LLC. The new two-bedroom cabins are expected to be available for rental by the end of June, Barbera said. They will be released in groups of three to four cabins.
“We certainly would like to start rolling these out in June,” said Barbera, a native of Buffalo whose family grew up camping at Allegany. “I have three brothers who are all engineers. I am an accountant. Our family has been coming to the park since it opened in the ’20s. We have a long history there. That was the impetus for getting involved. We’ve put a lot into this project.”
The 900-square-foot premium cabins comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and sleep six. Each unit features a full bathroom with shower, vaulted ceilings with fan, a fully stocked kitchen and bedding and towels. Each unit also includes an 8-by-30-foot covered porch, picnic table, grill and fire pit.
Tongue-and-groove flooring and exterior half-round pine siding give the structure a lodge feel, said Barbera, who estimated the cost of the building the 28 cabins at $2 million to $2.5 million.
This season, each of the new builds will rent for $695 a week through www.reserveamerica.com, though Barbera expects the rental cost to increase next year.
The project was outlined in a 10-year master plan issued by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation in 2010. That plan also called for improvements to water, sewer, power and natural gas service at the state park.
Additions to the lodging stock at Allegany will occur in two phases, according to Empire State Development. Phase One involves the installation of connecting utilities and the construction and furnishing of the 28 cabins. Thirteen of the cabins will be built on Parallel Trail in the historic Quaker Area. Fifteen new cabins will be located on Bova Trail in the Red House Area of the park in an undeveloped wooded meadow.
Phase Two is planned for 2015 and calls for additional cabins and/or group camps to be built by ASP, the lodging development and management company operated by the Barbera family.
Allegany State Park, located in the Southern Tier bordering Pennsylvania, is 60 miles south of Buffalo, 30 miles east of Jamestown and just outside Salamanca. The park was dedicated July 30, 1921. Initial development in the Red House Area was funded through a bond approved in 1924.
Between 1933 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, bridges, picnic and camping areas. The Quaker Area, the original part, had a lake and large campground added to its 200 cabins.
According to the Empire State Development, the project is expected to boost tourism at the 65,714-acre park by increasing overnight visitors, extending their stay and attracting destination weddings.
Last year, Allegany attracted 259,532 campers, said park manager Gary Quattrone. Eighty-three percent were New York residents.
“During our peak season – July and August – we run about 95 percent capacity,” said Quattrone. “During fall and winter weekends, we are generally booked for cabins and campsites.”
Robin Ward DeHart grew up on Grand Island and moved to the Southern Tier with her family after graduating from high school in 1977. The 54-year-old project manager for a computer consulting company now lives in Harrisburg, Pa.
But each summer for the past 25 years, DeHart gathers four generations of family members for an Allegany Park vacation. Relatives travel from Faulkner, Kennedy, Cheektowaga and as far away as Abbeville, La. Highlights of the camping week include a group pilates class taught by one of DeHart’s nieces and the daily bring-your-own-bottle happy hours on Anderson trail under a tent set with tables and chairs.
After a quarter-century of trying to rent at least 10 cabins along the same trail during peak season, DeHart described the cabin rental process in a word.
“Nerve-wracking,” she said. “Only because everybody tries to get on the Internet at 9 o’clock in the morning on the same Saturday months in advance. I pretty much reserve all the cabins.”
“What I do is go into my office training lab and log on to 10 computers. My husband goes and maybe a friend. We have everything set up by 9, and we get all the cabins we need,” said DeHart. “We go from computer to computer hitting ‘enter.’ ”
Barbera, the developer, recalled his parents’ strategy in securing park lodging years before anyone heard of the Internet.
“Back in the ’60s and ’70s, you had to wait until Jan. 2 of your arrival year to postmark your request,” Barbera said. “I can remember my mom and dad putting the letter in the mail requesting cabins. They would hear back maybe a month later.”
Barbera, 56 – who was born on the Lower West Side, grew up in Tonawanda and graduated from Sweet Home High School – said he and his brothers formed their company in response to the state’s request for a proposal to upgrade and further develop Allegany Park.
ASP, the only respondent, was given the contract and awarded $500,000 in funding contingent on an executed concession contract, which was finalized in February.
According to an Empire State Development project plan, once ASP has completed construction of the cabins, ownership will be transferred to the state parks department, which in turn will provide the company with a 20-year lease to manage the lodging units.
This privatization of state park lodging represents a new arrangement for Allegany, said Barbera.
“I think the state has come to realize that it can do much more when teamed with private industry,” said Barbera. “We were able to approach it as a user as well as a builder. We know this park so well because we come here every summer.”