ACT Construction Blog

This blog was created by Cherie Major during construction of the ACT Campground and Learning Center. It provides a words-and-pictures account of the construction of this environmentally friendly facility. The campground opened for business on March 27, 2015.


March 1, 2015                                                                by: Cherie Major

The weather has turned cold but it has not stopped us from moving toward our goal to be finished by the end of the month.  The fence that was started in my last blog is now complete and a crew is filling the gabion baskets with rocks to make sure it will not blow down in an 80 mile an hour wind.  Even Kim’s sister from Park City put in a few hours of labor.fence install1

fence install2

fence install3




fence gabion




fence gabion2
Likewise the landscaping is well underway.  Tent sites have either blocks or wood terracing.  The underground irrigation tubes and drip system is being strung throughout the park.  Here is a picture of a tree that have been planted.

land scap treestent sites with wood
Outside, the seemingly never ending earth works continues to transform the grounds.  A drainage culvert under the entrance was finished. entrance culvert The flash flood drainage pond is deep, also has a culvert, and is ready for some landscaping. drainage pond2drainage pond 3 The pond has a steep grade and we will need to fence it for safety.  Some RV sites have a gravel pad. rv sites with gravel We are working on side yards that will be mulched and completing the utilities install.  Here is a picture of the electrical box being wired.air conditioner
steel door1






The airconditioner required a forklift for the install. as did the steel building door.electrical rv sites


Inside, the entire building has been painted.  The residence Kitchen was the last.  You can see Mike our paint foreman taking down the last of the plastic and tape.  interior painting

The regular crew also finished white lime plaster on the residence bedroom and the laundry room straw bale walls. mud floor 2straw lime white The second phase of the mud floor in the residence master bedroom was completed on Wednesday and Thursday morning it was discovered that mice had come in during the night and dug up the oat seeds out of the floor.mice mus floor

Kim’s sister Yvette and her husband Mike drove down from Park City to install my barn door in the residence bathroom.  Mike brought all the hardware that he built himself.  We provided the door.  I stained and sealed it a few days before they came.

barndoor installbarn door 1








This coming week will be inside projects as it will rain and snow all week.  So far we have been lucky with the weather so I guess this rain is ok.  In the desert we sure do need it.


February 19, 2015                                            by: Cherie Major

Since the beginning of February, Eric and Kara are making a big push to have all the sub-contractors finished by March 15.  They had a meeting with the regular crew just this morning to make it clear we are in hustle mode.  Kim and I have been put on alert too.  We get texts, emails and instruction daily.  stairs


The cabin style rentable rooms are finished and we have started setting them up.  Tony finished making the steps for the upper rooms.  So nice, will not miss climbing or using a ladder for the upper rooms.  Over the weekend Tiffany assembled 5 queen beds and Jeff put in electrical plates and helped Kim in the yard with tent sights.


The front of the building had a retaining wall put in and the patio concrete is also finished.  There will be a small retaining wall for the residence front yard.  A railing/metal fence, matching the one in the back, will surround the small yard.  Wanted to make sure guest would not try to register in our living room!retain 3







Kim is working with a crew of 3 designing tent sites, shaping and preparing retaining walls some with brick and some with wood.  We also have about 10 of the 40 picnic table assembled.  Each table and the wood supports are sealed with an organic green sealer prior to assembly.tent wall

tent wall assembly

picnic assembly

The interior straw walls are going to be oiled instead of painted because the brown with gold straw flakes is really beautiful.  The laundry room and our residence bedroom straw walls will be painted white.mud walling

Tomorrow the painters will paint the base board in the residence and that will finish their work.  The entire building is now painted.



This week the plumbers are setting up the hot water heaters and the residence bath tub.  Washers and dryers are in the laundry and will be hooked-up as soon as the hot water heaters are water hook up The rain gutter and down spouts are all installed.





They began the irrigation underground system today.








Kim and I made a trip to Grand Junction this week purchasing the residence toilet, room curtains, cabinet hardware for the residence and blocks for the tent sites.  We also found a used counter for the office complete with file cabinet and chair.  We pulled Eric’s big tailor with the Pilot.

Electrical boxes went up at each of the RV sites.  The sites on the west end are graded and raked.  Once the rest of the electrical and cable are installed they will bring in gravel for the pads and mulch/wood chips for the picnic tables.electric poles

The earth works for the drainage pond was started and Chris put in the culvert under the entrance this Sunday when the traffic was lighter.drainage pond


rv site2


The sound wall fence between the campground and the residential neighbors got started today.fence line 3fence line 2




Here are a couple of pictures of the new railing on the back along with the colorful Adirondack chairs.  A view of the main building as of February 15.rail2






feb 8 outside



February 8, 2015                               by Cherie Major

Eric and Kara, our builders, have a new software that lists everything that needs to be done, by whom and the deadline date. Given that construction needs to be complete by mid-March, this software is keeping us on the fast forward track.  This week we hired a land designer Jeremy Lynch and he and Kim have laid out the tent sites and he helped prepare the fence base.  On weekends, Tiffany and Jeff have spent long hours working on said tent sites, raking the hillside and burning bad weeds. We also had 40 picnic tables delivered.  Here are pictures of the tent sites.

tentsites 1tent site 2

fence basepicnic table crates

Kim and I, as are Eric and Kara, making regular trips to Grand Junction for beds and mattresses.  The room floors are being sealed and grouted.  See the before and after pictures.   Soon we will be able to set the rooms up with beds, table and chairs.trailor with matresses

unsealed floor

sealed floor



The front of the building was redesigned this week getting rid of steps and putting in a sloped walk with a retaining wall.  This was all changed in order to keep the two trees and make it easier for folks to come to the office to register.  The footer for the retaining wall is in and the concrete folks put in more of the sidewalk around the building.sidewalk  walk footer


yard tool baseEric and Kara thought we needed a fenced storage area for lawn equipment and such.  This is a picture of the pad being prepared for the concrete slab at the top of the property.

The painters are working on the exterior doors.  The architect, Peggy was visiting when I was trying to decide what colors the doors should be.  She suggested one shade lighter than the wall color.  Seemed like a good idea until I saw there orange doors!!! I just hope when the stucco is on the wall it will all look good.  If not, I will invite my friends over for a re-painting doorsorange doors2





Inside the residence the trim folks have been busy and creative with the trim work around the straw bale. Picture of the building Feb. 8th.

base board

feb 8 outside




January 25, 2015               by: Cherie Major

The holidays were great. We spent Christmas in Cheyenne with Cherie’s family and New Years in Salt Lake City with Kim’s Family. Most of the workers were out of town visiting family. Come January 3rd they were all out hitting it hard. Many days we had 12-15 folks running around doing various jobs; plumbing, electrical, sheet rock–tape-texture-paint, doors, and mudding inside straw bale.


walls textured

rooms painted





January 6th my birthday, Lilly and I brought cake. Several times a week I purchase donuts or other sweets to keep the workers happy and to give them some much needed calories. What they all do is hard work and on top of it cold.   We have had some snow this month.

birthday lily

Snow jan

In the residence the master bedroom mud floor was installed with pex tubing for floor heating then covered in mud.

mud floor pex2

mud floor 1

The straw walls were wired, plastered then mudded in a rich brown dirt and straw mixture. The process is very labor intensive but very beautiful. Next is the lime plastering, the final step.

straw mudding1

straw mud2








This past month all the exterior doors were installed. Once installed, we realized there were almond windows with cross hatch while the doors had white cross hatch windows of a different size. The overall look was not attractive. The builders, Kara and Eric, agreed so they ordered new glass without cross hatching for all the doors. It was a small added expense so we decided to make the change.

doors 6





The appliances for both kitchens, the residence tub and all the laundry washers and dryers have arrived. When the plumbing is ready and the painter finishes, they will all be installed.

appliances and water heaters in boxes




The ongoing saga of the steel building continues. Kim, with the help of Jeff and Tony, had managed to get the roof done, the trim mostly up and some insulation. Allied Steel now has to send us missing roof center pieces. The oversized door we ordered does not fit so we will hire a welder to reinforce a beam and maybe add a plate to secure the door. In the mean time the plumber is digging the drain and connecting it to the drainage pond area. Next will come the gravel floor and then the hot water heaters can be put in and hooked up to the floor pex tubing for heating the building. Because there is no heat in the building, all the subs have had to heat with electrical floor space heaters.

steel building front

The garage was sheet rocked in smurf blue and the soffit and fascia are being painted and installed.

garage sheet rocked

facia boards paining

doors rooms1

Outside the earthworks folks have attached the sewer main to the building. They have deep trenched and installed first all the sewer lines up the main RV section roads, second retrenched a little higher the water lines and last still a little higher up the electrical lines. This past week the lines from the road were trenched and hooked up to all but 6 of the 21 RV pads. The next step will be to trench only about 18” down the cable TV conduit. We are really pleased that Emery Telecom is putting in fiber optic instead of coaxial cable.

sewer to main building

water to campsites




water and eectric to sites

This past month we have been tasked with selecting all the paint colors, the bathroom tiles, and interior door styles. My big job was getting 6 bids for cabinets and counter tops. In the end, I selected two local cabinet makers one to do cabinet and the other butcher block counter tops. I was glad to learn they were not only less expensive they also included delivery and install for less than the bids from Lowes, Home Depot and Sutherlands in Grand Junction. I did, however, order glass blocks for the residence bathroom from Sutherlands.  We also purchased the residence vanity, mirror, and tile from Lowes. Lowes also gave us a great deal on ceiling fans with lights for each of the rental rooms. This weekend, we selected picnic table from Home Depot. Because we are ordering 40 the manufacturer has agreed to build them early for us. They usually don’t make them until April! Additionally, we are buying bunk beds with full futon bottoms and queen beds for the rooms online. It is really fun but the choices can be over whelming.

The construction is on schedule for a mid March opening. I am busy learning Quick Books Pro after purchasing a new computer. This week I need to download the reservation software and learn how it works. Emery Telecom is doing our phones so they have activated our new number and will transfer all calls to my cell until we get the actual phones installed in the office. I plan to begin taking reservations for after April 15th just to be safe. Start making your plans to visit!!


December 13, 2014                          by: Cherie Major

Given that it is a rainy Saturday and I am sitting in the Airstream on the property surrounded by mud, it seemed like a good idea to update the blog.  Kim is off fixing the tire on the Prius that collected one of the many discarded nails around the building. The county did allow us to have our RV on the property while under construction.  So, the first of December we moved over from OKRV even though we did not have any hook-ups.

airstream move to site

Port a Potty in front of the Prius! At least it was close.


la Sal sunset


This was the view from the Airstream  at sunset of the La Sal Mountains

Here is a picture of the office complex from half way up the property.  They were able to save these two juniper trees.  A rock wall will serve as a retaining wall when we get to landscaping.  The outside has not changed much but, wow has the inside taken shape these last three weeks.

building view december

The Sun News did a two page article on our campground in their November 12th edition.  They were interested in the fact that we are the first straw bale construction commercial building in the State of Utah.  The article was so well done and we were pleased that they took such an interest.  While the editor, Rudy Herndon, was interviewing us we shared our concern about not being able to use gray water in Utah.  We shared how initially Kim and I wanted to use gray water for gardens but we were told at the state level that it was not allowed in commercial buildings here in Utah.  What a disappointment, but we did talk to the architect and builder about ways we could be set up to do so in the future if the laws changed.  Needless to say we did not pursue it further.  Rudy was equally surprised and concerned especially in a desert environment, that he decided to hire a woman to do research and to write an article on the subject.  She soon called to let us know that we were given miss information and that it was legal to use gray water for plant irrigation.

About the same time in November, I attended a workshop from Utah State University at the Moab campus on rainwater collection, water conservation and gardening using gray water.  However, after the workshop, I was again lamenting the fact to our builders, that we were not even collecting the water off the roof with gutters.  Kara pointed out that we did have roof gutters in the bid.  Both Kim and I thought they had been cut when we had to trim the budget.  Kara, having been a landscaper for many years, suggested we design a cistern system and place the piping from the roof gutter under the sidewalks.  Let it be said, let it be done.  Tony got on the small back hoe and dug the trench for the roof water piping.  He and Eric put it in shortly thereafter. Within a year of opening we hope to have the cisterns in place.  Above ground rain barrels will be purchased for the residence immediately.  I have already picked out terracotta rain barrels that double as flower pots.  Below is the cistern piping going in. Eventually we hope to divert the wash machine gray water from the laundry into the cisterns.

rain water pipeGray water pipes, gas pipes and water line for the patio sink.

rain water trench and pipe

Trench and piping for the roof water collection on the north side.


Almost all of the other utility pipes are in the ground around the building so at least on the back side they are preparing to put in the lower side room sidewalks.

sidewalk prep

Inside most of the electrical, mechanical HVAC, plumbing, and gas lines are in except for the large bath houses.  We passed the inspection except for Kim’s 12 volt system.  Given that it was in the plans for the future the building inspector said he would have to get a professional engineer’s stamp or stop where he is now and complete it in the future. He did get a lot of conduit in, but we had to stop at this point on the 12 volt back-up system.  That will be another project for the future.

vents 2

Community Hall, Orange pipe is fire suppression, blue 12 volt conduit.

laundry room piping

laundry piping and residence vents


vents 1






bathhouse studs

concrete foundation and studs up in the bath house



Inspection passed, the insulators had the go ahead.  The crew of approximately six began work on a Friday, worked all day Saturday and completely finished by 5 pm on Sunday.  Way to hustle!! I never even saw them take a break. They even insulated the bath house wall which will have to be taken down to do the plumbing.

insulation officeinsulation comm








This past week the sheet rock started up in the rooms and Chris Carter of CB Earthworks was back on the job.  He and his crew put in the big sewer man hole and began trenching up the middle of the RV section with the sewer lines.  We now have the first sewer outlet and will be moving the Airstream tomorrow so we can have our first hook-up.  I will not miss the cold port a potty seat early in the morning!  Oh, it is the simple things in life!!!

sewer main3

sewer main

sewer line1

sewer line

sewer first rv site


This is for me!



While sitting in the Airstream recovering from this 48 hour virus, I watched as one of the front loaders went into the trench.  They had to get the big back hoe to pull it out.

Sewer stuck in hole

The roof caps are complete, windows are in and Erin began the base plaster on the straw bale.

windows dining hall

mud 1

mud 2

steel building front wallFront wall of the steel building, roof is next.




I drove up to Grand Junction to get cabinet bids for the residence and community kitchen.  Home Depot, Sutherlands and Lowes are preparing bids.  I also am getting bids from local cabinet makers.  It was an interesting process.  Each had different ideas, all of which were helpful.  Got the 6 foot bathtub for the residence ordered as it will go in soon.  If any of you were wondering, we did not buy a computer.  Jeff and Tiffany gave us one they were not using.  Quick Books is down loaded and now that will be my next chore.

November 24, 2014         by: Cherie Major

I have been trying to do this blog for days, but each time I plan to sit down to type, something new happens on the property or Kim needs me to get supplies so he can try to finish the 12 volt system by his December 2nd deadline.  There will be a closet next to the stairs between the office and the residence.  Oh, here is a picture of the stairs Kate built the other day.

stairs w Lilly

In that closet, left of Lily, will be a bank of batteries that will power a 12 volt electrical system like one found in an RV.  The 12 volt system will include charging outlets where guests can charge cell phones, computers or other electronic equipment with car chargers right in their rooms, laundry or community rooms.  The 12 volt system will also power LED lights.

kim 12 volt

Each room in the entire building will have charging boxes next to electrical outlets and the LED lights will be in the ceilings next to the fans.

12volt 1

Friends, Paul and David, have faithfully helped Kim install the boxes, conduit and wires come rain, wind or freezing temperatures.  Jeff, our son-in-law, brings materials from Grand Junction and then climbs the rafters on weekends.

Given that the earthworks have been stalled, Tony took the backhoe in hand and dug the trench for the gas line and waterline to the building.

gas line trench

Still having trouble with the steel building, the manufacture finally admitted that they did not have an assembly manual for our particular building style.  No wonder we have had so much trouble with the manual they sent.  steel building help

Tony and Jeff were asked by Eric to give Kim a little or a lot of help.  They have three walls up.  The roof can wait, but the structure is ready for the plumbers to do their work on the hot water heaters that will go in the building.

steel building 3 walls

The HVAC is quite the effort.  Seems we have a whole family of acrobatics.  First they installed all the duct work now they have to insulate it.


The crew put up the straw bale on the community kitchen and dining hall.  They did it in one day.  They are so skilled.

community kitchen straw

Stucco group has been out preparing the walls for the foundation layer then because of the cold weather they had to put up a big tent with heaters to keep the undercoat above 40 degrees.  It was a fun crew and they really worked fast.

stucco wrap start


Exterior doors on the rooms have been installed.stucco wrap 5


stucco stud


stucco tent





stucco 6

Next the roof is being installed.  Of course the wind came up to make it more difficult.  Erin, Jeff and Eric even came over on Saturday when the sun was out.  December is upon us, so the roof is a great asset.


Today the plumbers started their work in the laundry room.







We have ordered the kitchen appliances, are in the process of ordering the coin operated laundry and negotiating on the fence.  I have to pick out all the colors and models.  All my life I wanted to design my own kitchen and home.  Now that it is here, there are so many decisions I am over whelmed.  At least we finally decided on the exterior colors.  The upper building is going to be “Mucky Duck” and the lower building “Toasted Almond”.  Eric gave me a package of over 1,000 paint colors to choose for the interiors.  “Wow”.

Peggy our architect made special drawings for a cabinet maker.  I need to choose one soon!  Have spent hours on the internet looking at cabinets and colors; this is harder than I ever imagined.  Been thinking about black and white with copper and cobalt blue highlights for the residence.  Need something durable for the community kitchen.

Now that it is near the end of the year our Accountant wanted me to buy Quick Books and start the business books.  Well bought the software online but could not download it because XP is no longer supported.  Not another decision!!! Now I have to buy the new computer.  Well, maybe I can get a good deal on one black Friday while we are in Cheyenne for Thanksgiving.

November 1, 2014                                 by:  Cherie Major

Moving forward on all fronts:

First, the water main was tapped and the pipes from the tap to the building are being placed in the ground.  Chris had to do some rock crushing, the first rock he has encountered while putting in the utilities.  Let’s hope it is the last.  The neighbors did not like the noise.

water tap1water tap3

Second, the North end of the building with the rooms has the windows installed and ground level face plate.  Here I am sitting in one of the window sills.


cherie construction


outdoorfloor plate



They have started paining the soffit boards.facia painting


The windows of the community kitchen are framed in. window ck framed

The Allied Steel building continues to be a problem.  They sent two roof beams alike when they needed to be mirror to each other.  Kim had to drill new holes and hire a welder to correct the problem.  The company is going to pay for the welding so we do not have to wait for them to send a new beam.  David and Paul friends have been helping with the building and Jeff and Tiffany help on the weekends. Kim won the senior lunch costume contest on Halloween.  The prize was a $35 gift certificate to the Branding Iron restaurant so we took David and Paul to dinner after an afternoon of working on the building.  Pictured is Kim and David Brown.

steel b beams roof

The big excitement was the erection of the straw bales.  The crew measured, cut with a chainsaw, and stacked the entire south wall of the residence on Halloween. The following pictures document the process. Then on Saturday the winds blew 40 + mile an hour gusts and blew half of the wall down.  Eric and others put it back up over the weekend.

Base for the straw and stacks piled inside out of the rain.

straw base

straw delivered 2straw1straw3straw2straw5straw4



straw7The carport was designed to have two walls with the east and south sides open.  I was watching the sun shine in most of the day so I asked Eric how much it would be to put in an east wall.  Turns out not much as it would save on the stucco painting they had planned for the interior.   Below is the carport as it has been going up from the framing to the new wall from the inside and out.carport frame

carport rafters





carport new wall




carport wall inside


October 16, 2014                              by Cherie Major

In the last couple of weeks the building has changed significantly.  We have all the roof joists put up, OSB board covering all but the carport and moisture barrier paper or I should say reinforced plastic sheets on top of the OSB.  It is now rain proof.

roof rafters with fork lift

roof rafters complete

roof plywood2




roof plywood1





roof paper





The beginning of this week the electrical sub contractor, A& E Electric, had a crew of 4 putting in electrical boxes in the exterior walls and interior studded walls.  electric boxesThey also put in the exterior half –moon lower lighting around the perimeter of the building.  The HVAC folks (Advanced Air) were in starting the attic duct work.  Code required that the nine hostel rooms be equipped with an overhead fire sprinkler system.  This week the installation of the sprinkler system was started as well.

The foundation for the separate steel utilities building was completed and Kim, along with some friend, began the assembly.  steel building forundation forms

steel building beams





Kim has been working on a billboard sign for the entrance to the property where we can display the architectural drawings, site design and building permit.  It has taken several weeks, but it is finally finished.  signOh, I did paint it and get the drawings laminated.  Jeff helped with the construction and Tiffany and I did do the License plate shingled roof.






September 25, 2014                        by: Cherie Major

Now in the third week of September the campground is transformed by framed walls.  The bathroom has the ICF (insulate concrete forms) walls that were stacked like Lagos and then filled with concrete.  The wood frame studs in the front are in place and ready for the straw bales to be stacked.  The sides and back of the office complex, where we have the hostel/cabin rooms, now have sip walls up.  These new modern construction materials are not only energy efficient but easy to assemble.  Most of the studs are up for the interior rooms as well.  icf final







sip upper rooms





sound studs

You can see from the picture that the studs are not placed evenly but staggered.  This is for sound proofing between rooms.

We took a short four day trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming to visit Cherie’s family.  When Cherie’s Dad died, he left a garage full of tools to her brother David who also has a large garage full of tools.  David said we should take anything we need.  A U-Haul trailer was filled with any and every kind of tool known to mankind!!  unload uhaul

Along with tools, tool boxes and a table saw, there were garden implements and a cement mixer.  Everything needed to build and run a campground thanks to Dad and David. Pictured is Kim and Jeff unloading the U-Haul.

Kim has been working on getting the infrastructure in for the oil solar powered heating system that will be installed in a couple of years.  Anticipating what will be needed in the future has been challenging.  Getting all the pipes, values and tubes in the ground before the final road grade is critical.

copper oil pipes

copper pipes2




Given that this is an eco-campground we are really pleased that our builder is using a solar powered generator for the electrical tools. solar generator

recycle bins He is also recycling the construction materials.  The discarded wood scraps we are taking to the OKRV Campground for campers to use for fires.

Next week the roof joists and footers for the metal out building which will house the heating cooling systems are on the schedule.  Pictured are all the parts.

steel utility building partsroof joists parts



September 6, 2014                   by: Cherie Major

The end of August and the beginning of September has brought a flurry of activity on the office complex.  My last blog was about the footers, this one is about the floor stages. Retaining walls and footers in place, Ben Bird’s concrete crew took over by first preparing the ground with a hand held compactor.  While compacting they used an electronic leveler to make sure the floors would be level or slightly sloped as in the shower room. Next, fill with small pebble gravel followed by Styrofoam, gravel, and then wire mesh.

dirt gravel strirafoam gravel mesh

The next big job, which finally involved Kim and I, was laying pex tubes and tying them to the wire mesh with either an electric gun or by hand with zip ties.  This was back breaking work especially in the heat of the day.  Kim worked all day but, I worked mornings and late in the evenings.   My excuse was taking care of Lilly and meeting Amelia at the bus after school.  This allowed me the much needed afternoon nap.  Our friend Paul as well as Jeff and Tiffany helped tie down tubes given our tight timeline for pouring concrete.

kim pex

pex controls

The pex tubes will carry heat and cool (depending on the season) to all parts of the office complex.  To maximize the heat/cool transfer the tubes needed to be tied tight to the metal of the mesh.  Each room was divided into zones and the in and out of each zone is connected to the controls.  The upper area controls will be in the residence pantry and the lower controls will be located in the office.

Before the concrete could be poured over the pex tubes, the building department come to the site and run a test to make sure none of the tubes leaked and that they maintained appropriate pressure.  The upper and lower floors passed the inspections giving the go ahead to pour concrete.  Given the red sand, we selected to go with a colored concrete.  Spanish Gold was very close to the color of the dirt on our property.  The concrete was poured around 4:30 am in the dark with big lights all around.  The workers then spent most of the work day smoothing and scoring the concrete floors.  We were very pleased at how beautiful they turned out.  Below shows the wet and dry concrete colors.


lower pour 3finshed floor

While the roads and parking lot were still in rough grade, Kim took the opportunity to have three monitor wells drilled.  He will be collecting data for the next couple of years learning about the underground flow of water on the property.  The information will be used to recycle heat and cool through ground water in phase two of Kim’s energy plan.  They found ground water at 28-30 feet at each drill site.  Good news for building in the desert.  Finding property with water at the right depth was one reason why it took us so long to buy. well drilling


It is fun to watch all these professionals work.  I am in awe of their skills.  It gives one a new respect for all that goes into building a new structure.




August 13, 2014                                by Cherie Major

If you drive by the property this week you will see heavy equipment all over digging ditches for underground electrical conduit, forming the RV roads and pouring concrete as well as a water truck to keep the sand moist.  Concrete work on the various foundations continues.

straw bale foundation The design calls for a special foundation for the straw bale walls shown with the blue foam sides.

The bathroom walls will have ICF, insulated concrete forms.  ICF will provide excellent water barrier walls.  Here is a description from Wikipedia -“Insulating concrete form or insulated concrete form (ICF) is a system of formwork for reinforced concrete usually made with a rigid thermal insulation that stays in place as a permanent interior and exterior substrate for walls, floors, and roofs. The forms are interlocking modular units that are dry-stacked (without mortar) and filled with concrete. The units lock together somewhat like Lego bricks and create a form for the structural walls or floors of a building. ICF construction has become commonplace for both low rise commercial and high performance residential construction as more stringent energy efficiency and natural disaster resistant building codes are adopted.”bathroom footers icf

The third type of footers are for retaining walls and SIP construction.  SIP’s are shown in the first blog.footer retaining wall

The campground management will be Kim and I of course, but also our daughter and her family.  Until such time as the campground can support two families, Tiffany and Jeff needed to find jobs in the Moab area.  Beginning August 11 both Tiffany and Jeff began new jobs; Tiffany in Moab and Jeff in Grand Junction.  As a special treat Kim and I are watching the two grandchildren during this construction phase.

August 2, 2014                              by Cherie Major

The last week of July’s schedule was mainly preparation for the footers.  First, someone spray painted the entire design in red on the dirt. small hoe foundation Second, with a small back hoe, they trenched locations of all the footers.  Third, rebar, string and wood frames were placed in the trenches.  foundation rebar


It rained several times this week keeping the ground moist which was very helpful for trenching and moving equipment in and out.

Knowing that Kim and I needed to be involved, Eric and Kara are keeping us busy.  Every Wednesday we meet for updates and tasks.  This week Kim and Eric are working on gas and oil pipes that need to be under the foundation.  Cherie gets to work on choosing colors for the roof, flashing, stucco walls, concrete stain and earth walls on the straw bale.  This is the fun part choosing colors.  We have been asking everyone their opinion.  An added benefit is that Eric sends us minutes of the meetings.  The two of them are creating a very professional operation and we really appreciate these details.  It clearly makes us extra confident.

The Gaia of our land is angry, I am sure.  She and the wind conspired and left a knot on my head.  This week, while putting up the shade tarp for our weekly meeting, I inadvertently stood on an ants nest and 40 of so ants were crawling up my leg before I noticed.  I incurred several bites on both feet.  Wow,  did that sting!  In fact it stung throughout the entire meeting.  I tried rubbing the soles of my feet, then at Kara’s suggestion we found some Spurge (Native American remedy) and rubbed it on, to no avail.  That evening Kim suggested I use baking soda to counter act the formic acid from the bites.  Only after about 3 hours of applying wet cotton pads loaded with soda did my feet stop hurting.  The next day I put my bare toes in a cactus.  The millennial old soil is fighting back!

 July 24, 2014                                 by Cherie Major

Every day this week has been over 100 degrees, but it has not stopped the work from progressing at a rapid rate. Chris Carter has been transforming the land beginning at 7 am and not leaving until 8 pm each day.  He was busy getting the rough cut grade for the building complex ready for concrete work, footers and such. upper floor grade The upper floor is 5 feet higher than the lower floor.  Here are the two different grades he prepared.  lower floor grade You will notice that we also had the port-a-potty delivered for the on slot of workers coming soon.  Not only does Chris have to move, pile, fill dump trucks and grade; he also has to stop and water the sand to keep it from blowing away or swallowing the vehicles.  watering sand

Building in the desert has its unique challenges.  Wednesday a ditch witch appeared to bore under the road and place power and telecom conduit.  This was completed in a half a day.  We needed two 4” lines one for one phase and the other for three phase power coming in a couple of years.  ditch witchThe two inch conduit is for all the phones, internet and cable TV.power conduit  Several weeks ago a local hotel was replacing their room furniture.  Kim and I were able to score about 30 perfectly good chairs and 20 or so coffee tables.  These we have stored for when we open.  However, several of the chairs and tables were in poor condition so we brought them to the property for use during construction.  We also purchased a big portable shade structure to put up for some kind of shade on our tree less land.  Given that we were having our first weekly “board” meeting on Wednesday, Kim and I assembled the shade structure Tuesday evening and created a “board” room.  You can see Kim sitting here with his board! board room Now we are smart people so we checked two different weather forecasts to make sure there was no wind predicted.  Both stations indicated only  5-6 mile an hour winds.  So we thought it was safe to leave it standing overnight. Well at 2:30 am the wind began to blow at about 30 mile an hour gusts.  By 3 am we decided to get dressed and head to the property (about 3 miles away) to take down the shade structure.  Too Late!! It was a tangled mess and trying to blow across the state.  Kim grabbed one end and I grabbed another when one leg blew up and hit me in the head.  It took about an hour to get the top off the poles to at least save it.  We managed to get it apart and went back to the Airstream where I iced my head for another hour.  Not to bad, the knot on my head is only about the size of a silver dollar.  We did save the top and roped it up for the meeting the next day.  This is where having an engineer husband comes in handy.

July 19, 2014                                  by Cherie Major

Even though it is Saturday, one has to take advantage of the early morning cool hours.  Chris and crew were up and at it moving all the piles of dirt out of the way.  Fortunately, we have a neighbor who needs fill dirt.  moving dirtKim arrived around 7 this morning to stake out the buffer fence between our campground and the residential property on the North side.  Tent sites will be located next to the fence.  Kim and I will shape and develop the tent sites. fence lineHowever, Eric our builder pointed out that if we needed fill dirt or to remove large shrubs, it could be easily done with the track hoe.  Therefore, we needed to get all the tent sites planned before the equipment is gone.  Our original plan was to work on the tent sites later in the Fall but, now it requires us to do the tent sites ASAP, or at least get the raw ground preparations in order.

July 17, 2014                                       by Cherie Major

To avoid the heat of the day, at 8 am this morning we hosted a ground breaking event.  After coffee, juice and donuts David Brown gathered us all for the official picture.


Pictured left to right: Top row: Brent Pitcher (Mountain America Credit Union SBA Director), Lynda Diem (Moab Realty), Jeff Pillus (Set Civil Engineering), Ethel Krist (OKRV Park Owner and Consultant), Kim Sherwood & Cherie Major (Ownrs), Peggy Hosmer (Architect), Kara Stoner & Eric Plourde (Builders, Eco-Logic), Mary Lou Lopez & Tara Richardson (MACU Assistant Branch Manager and Branch Manager)

Front Row kneeling: David Brown (photographer and Artist in Residence)

Three other important players:

Chris Carter of CB Earthworks Chris Carter(Optimus Prime: Land Transformer)





Kalen Jones of With Gaia Designs, Site Designer.Kalen2

Lucas Blake of Red Desert Land Surveying

Lucas Blake

We want to thank each and every one of these people for their professional skills, because we would not be at this phase without them!!

A special thanks to all the folks at Grand County Planning and Building who where accessible and very helpful throughout this process.

July 16, 2014                                       by: Cherie Major

On July 1st the building permit was issued!! The project was registered at the county which meant we had the green flag to start the earthworks.  Equipment was rented and delivered, materials are on order and the work has begun.  Today we had our first weekly meeting with the builder, earthworks and architect.  Kim and I road down on our bikes, we all walked the property and each left with assignments. Here are three pictures of the early ground breaking.

chris spray


kim bike ground break

June 27, 2014                     by: Cherie Major

Yesterday, June 26, 2014 we finally closed on the construction loan phase.  Naively, we thought this was going to happen last April and we could start building in May.  Little did we know that the building permit process would take several months to complete.  Additional engineers were required because it was a commercial building.  Updated bids from sub-contractors were needed based on the final version of the architectural plans.  The final bids were significantly higher than the original bids we used to secure the SBA Loan.  This required we cut back on the amenities in the building or come up with several more hundreds of thousands of dollars we did not have.  Hunkering down with Eric and Kara our builders, we were able to cut many things, some of which were not needed others that can wait a year or two.  Electric and HVAC were sent to different contractors for a more cost effective bid.  The third reduction was from the bank, Mt. America Credit Union, which made some adjustments so we could afford to close with the funds we had.  The good news is we can start the earth works next week.  The critical path schedule has the project taking 200 days to complete.  Instead of a Fall 2014 opening, we anticipate a Spring 2015 opening.

 April 26, 2014                       by: Cherie Major

April 1st we had the second public hearing and one person asked questions which meant the board would not suspend the rules and vote that day.  Had to wait until April 15th when the County Board voted unanimously in favor of our project.  It is official we have the conditional use permit!!

buy land

On April 8th we purchased the land and on April 11th we had Chris Carter, our earth works contractor, out making a road so we could have the soils test.  All the plans are into the building inspector and we hope to hear back from the County Building Office on Monday.  Next items are the building permit and the construction loan closing.  This should happen in the next week or two.  All the dominos are beginning to fall fast.

earth move

March 12, 2014               by: Cherie Major

Tonight we had the first of two public hearings regarding the Conditional Use Permit (CUP).  This permit will allow us to put a campground on the commercial property.  Our engineer and site designer were present to answer any questions.  A power point presentation gave the Planning Board a basic introduction to the project.  There was a discussion about a buffer between the residential property and our commercial property along the north end.  The issue was resolved by asking us and the residential property owner to come to an agreement.  The Planning Board passed our CUP unanimously!  Two surrounding property owners attended to support our project.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  We are so appreciative of the excellent work of the engineers, site designer and architect who made this happen so smoothly.  The staff at Grand County Planning was so supportive, accessible and transparent.  We thank them for making this a positive process.

The very next day we met with the residential property owner and had a signed agreement by the end of the day.  Our final CUP is scheduled for April 1st.

March 1, 2014                       by: Cherie Major

Kim and I decided that we wanted to build an environmental campground after retirement.  In, 2009, we selected Moab, Utah, after a long search of the Southwest, because of its sun and varied recreational qualities.  The search for property began that year.  Beginning in February, 2012 we moved to Moab full time and worked at the OK RV Campground for experience.  It was not until summer of 2013 that Kim and I finally found a piece of property that was in a good location and had accessible water for our Eco Campground.  The process of making an offer on the land, hiring an architect, site designer and engineer, obtaining commercial zoning, finding a builder, getting bids, receiving an SBA Loan, finding a partner bank and meeting county guidelines has been as instructional as a college degree!

3 sipThe completion “war” has really just begun as we take on the next battle.  Subsequently, the current big one is the Conditional Use Permit which allows us to put a campground on the property and makes sure we meet all Grand County codes before construction.  The exciting part of the planning is finding eco-friendly building materials.  The campground office/residence complex design has the front of the building in straw bale.  BTW Grand County is the only county in Utah that allows straw bale construction.

The sides and back of the building will be in SIP construction (structural insulated panels).  Sip construction is very eco-friendly and has a high insulation factor.  Wednesday, we watched our builder put SIP panels up on a personal residence.  Here are two pictures of the panels during construction.  Note the Styrofoam centers and the OSB (oriented strand board) or “flake” board backing.  The panels go up like Lego construction.

(2) sip