It’s been called many things in its past. Over its 80-plus years of existence, it’s been known as the “Youth Cabin”, ” The Scout cabin”, “The Hunting Lodge” and Grandpa’s Cabin” to name a few. But by any name, it has remained as one of Crete’s greatest treasures. One constant has remained since its construction sometime in the 1930’s. It has always been a wonderfully secluded, yet nearby retreat to everything in nature that Nebraska has to offer. It’s a naturally wooded 38 acres through which the Big Blue River runs, and it beckons one and all to join in the peaceful coexistence with the wild.
In 1956, Ben and Florence Miller donated the cabin and leased its acres in perpetuity to Crete’s youth so that they could use it indefinitely. Mr. Miller was the early owner of the telephone company here in Crete, and several other surrounding communities. Mrs. Miller was the designer of the Nebraska State flag and planted the nation’s first living Christmas tree. The Boy and Girl Scouts in the area had begun to borrow the cabin more and more frequently in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s to conduct campouts, and it was used less and less for hunting as Mr. Miller grew older. The Millers decided to forego his “hunting lodge” and donate it for permanent use as a nature retreat and scout camping lodge. In April of 1956, the donation was made to the Crete Youth Association. Unfortunately, no provision in the original donation provided for a means to repair or maintain the property so over time, the property fell into near abandonment and terrible disrepair.
When it was originally erected from part of an old farmhouse and “corn crib” construction techniques, the old cabin’s life expectancy was 25 to 30 years, at best. There was no formal managing organization, no money to make repairs or to maintain and sustain the property. At times during its life as a youth facility, it became so overgrown with weeds and underbrush that its lanes were barely passable. The cabin and outbuilding structures had fallen prey to the wind, weather, a leaky roof, and vandalism. Only the mice and spiders, or perhaps the occasional trespassing partiers wishing to consume their spirits in the solitude of the near-abandoned building were using the facility. The boy and girl scouts had nearly given on up on it as a lost cause. Interest in Youth Cabin had almost completely waned.
Then, a few years ago, the local Rotary club started making annual visits to the cabin to try to do some “clean up” and make minor repairs. During those outings, some mowing, raking of leaves and general cleanup would take place, and the grounds would look somewhat presentable for a while, then slip back into decay. Very little was done to the cabin structure to repair or recondition it. However, on one such cleanup detail, the Rotary Club got the idea to apply for some available Rotary District Grant funds and replace the rotted and dilapidated picnic tables in the front yard of the cabin. They not only replaced the tables, but new concrete pads were poured to place them on.
One thing leads to another, and the next year, an additional Rotary grant was secured to restore the great stone fireplace and chimney in the cabin and to purchase paint for the exterior. This was the first significant repair done to the cabin for many years. It was then that we got down to the business of managing the property.
The informal management group evolved into the “Crete Youth Cabin Association, Inc.” The application was made through the Secretary of State to form the group as a non-profit corporation followed by request to the Internal Revenue Service to become a tax-exempted 501-c-3 non-profit so monies could be more easily raised. Both were effective in March of 2017.
Since then, and due mainly to lots of sweat equity and some generous donations, the property has been returned to usable condition. We have developed both short and long term plans for it’s future so that it will serve the youth and the community for many years to come. We are now, as they say, “Here to Stay!”
- An approximately 40′ by 40′ rustic cabin with a stone fireplace
- A modern, clean, and well equipped kitchen
- new 22 C.F. refrigerator/freezer units
- a double oven range
- new counter tops
- serving counter
- double basin sink with hot and cold running water
- wide open spaces and ample parking