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Breitenbush Hot Springs logo

Going Through the Attic

Published June 22nd, 2007 in Community Perspectives

Lodge3“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” goes an old saying. Recently we took a ride down that road to catch the view. Upon inspection, the hell realm we expected to see wasn’t such a bad place—like most worries, it was mostly made up of fear of the unknown.

This story begins last summer when I welcomed both the State Fire Marshall and the chief of Marion County Building Inspections to Breitenbush. They hadn’t been on property for 20 years, and it was time to update the relationship. Turns out, they came with an agenda, and because they represent the state, their agenda soon became our agenda.

The story really began last spring when, with every good intention, we planned to replace our old fire alarm system (it sounded like an air raid siren from the London Blitz, World War 2). This new $20,000 state-of-the-art system was installed in our four primary business buildings—the Lodge, Office, Villa (kitchen) and Wally World (our maintenance & supplies warehouse). These great new alarms are triple effective, giving us audible, visual and radio alerts, and were approved by the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s office. To get that approval meant inviting an inspector from that office in. As it happened, this inspector passed the new system with flying colors, but he noticed a number of other things that didn’t meet code, like no fire escapes leading out from the doors on the ends of the upstairs corridors in the Lodge (watch that first step …). The outcome was that our good intentions (better fire prevention) led to Marion County code enforcement informing us that we had to move all storage & offices out of the upstairs of the Lodge. Within two weeks. No extensions. No further human habitation upstairs till fire escapes, sheetrock and sprinkler systems are installed. No exceptions. Back in two weeks to inspect compliance.

Anyone who’s seen that warren of rooms up there knows …. they KNOW how much stuff and how many offices were crammed into that finite space. Tons of stuff from every team and every era of Breitenbush—Maintenance, Systems, IT/Comm, Clearing Arts, Healing Arts, Medical First Response, Office, Kitchen, Breitenbush Fire Department, Events, Admin Archives, TC’s/BLISS, you get the idea.

There’s another old saying from the I Ching that goes something like, “Crisis = Opportunity”. In the 14 days that followed the visit, we moved 20 years of accumulated treasures, artifacts, debris & detritus out. One guest who’s been coming here since the early ’80’s described the process as a “love-in work-party”. No drama. No trauma. New solutions for old problems. (One of my personal favorites is that we finally (at last!) brought comm lines and fiber across the footbridge and created a community communications center within our community village itself. Prior to that we inhabited Suite 16 upstairs in the Lodge.)

The real treasure found on this road to hell has been the collective will to finish the Lodge, something that we have been talking about for 30 years, since we first bought what was then a ghost resort, in 1977. This venerable hotel, nearly a century old, is the heart of the built environment here. I have wanted to see it restored to original functionality since I first saw it early in 1978. We’re now involved in the design, engineering and permitting that are required prior to bringing it to that standard.

The first principle of Breitenbush’s 11 Planning Design Principles states, “Preserve Sanctuary”. The second one says, “Finish what we have started before beginning new projects.” The Lodge, an 80 year old unfinished project, is just begging to be done. I want to publicly thank the State Fire Marshall and Marion County Building Inspections for redirecting our priorities and nudging us in the right direction here. In the not too distant now, I look forward to re-occupying the upper floor of the Lodge, this time with heated, well-lit, legal and safe accommodations.