Booming in Baggs

Town sees increased demand for lodging

A mini-building boom is occurring in Baggs, Wyo.

And all the construction is happening on the same block of town.

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Shawn Larson, owner and operator of the local sawmill, is constructing nine cabins on the main highway running through town, and he hopes those cabins are just the beginning.

"Demand is high," Larson said. "Everybody wants a cabin."

The Baggs cabins are being built as rental units, with a restaurant and lodge to follow.

Permits granted by the National Forest Service have allowed Larson's crews to harvest beetle-killed pines from the Medicine Bow National Forest east of Baggs. They also work for the Conservation Service and private landowners, removing dead trees from property.

Larson has stewardship contracts that allow selective cuts in the forest.

The crews take only trees that have been killed by beetle infestations decades earlier, with no cutting of trees that are growing.

"The forest needs thinning, and openings make it more resistant to fires. If you take out the dead pines, the aspen will grow there," Larson said. "Wyoming is good about taking care of the forests."

The beetle-kill pines are very dry and ripe for burning.

Burned forests lead to landslides and mud in the rivers, Larson said. Thinning the trees allows the forest to grow "big and beautiful."

With 21 "mostly full-time" employees, Larson would like to see the company build up to 300 cabins this summer. And with such an ambitious project ahead, Larson recently changed the name of the company from Custom Cut Logs and Lumber to the Rocky Mountain Cabin Company.

"These are prototypes we're working on here," he said, pointing to the Baggs project.

"Once we get the pattern, we can pre-fabricate the cabins. I'm hoping we can set and finish one cabin per day."

Many clients of the business are looking for a cabin to place on hunting property, and Larson said he makes that process simple.

"For $35,000 we will put up one of these cabins, from the bottom up," he said. "That's the standing price."

The price does not include the cost of the foundation and pilings or the septic system, and electric and plumbing also are left to the owner to finish.

Larson does have options that can raise the final price, including outfitting the cabin with aspen furniture.

People seem very receptive to the idea of a small, inexpensive cabin, Larson said.

"This spring, business is booming. The oil and gas exploration has a lot of people inquiring about getting a cabin," Larson said. "If we make it nice, people will live here. A cabin in the mountains beats living in the oil field."

The company has logs to cut near Encampment as well as Baggs, and the future may hold another sawmill located there.

The hardest part for Larson has been finding employees.

"We're pushing hard, and labor is the hardest part. We can't get enough help," he said. "Orders this hunting season might set us back two years."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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