Breitenbush Hot Springs logo
Breitenbush Hot Springs logo

It Depends On the Way That You See

Published September 22nd, 2012 in Community Perspectives

Last issue, I wrote about 5 guys who, in 1928, pressed their hands and put their initials into the wet concrete of their just-completed 15,000 gallon reservoir at the top of the hill above the Breitenbush Lodge area. It was built to serve the summer-only resort and is now under-sized, cracked and leaking. But, because of the Grandfather Clause, we continue to use that reservoir today, as we have done for decades. Meanwhile, work continues on a new 180,000 gallon reservoir, estimated to be completed this fall, which is engineered to serve the essential needs of our year-round community and retreat/ conference center. This summer we also began the work of excavation and laying in the piping necessary to connect the new reservoir to our historic Lodge (for fire suppression) and to our domestic water system that distributes clear drinking water to kitchens, bathrooms and hydrants throughout Breitenbush’s public zone.

This new pipeline installation project has proved daunting. After getting approval of the planning and engineering from the State, we started the project during our Closed Camp of late May/early June. As we got into it, we encountered massive bedrock and aggregate, interspersed with huge boulders. To get to the depth necessary for the pipes, drains and conduit we had to break through this stony mass, a difficult and expensive piece of work. As of late this summer, the most challenging area will be essentially ready for restoration/replanting, that of Main Camp extending from the Power House up past the Sauna and Lodge, and then further up to the edge of the forest between the Near Meadow Pool and Office.

Getting this far has impacted and frankly strained all of our senses this summer—auditory, visual and emotional. Some have questioned, should we be doing this project at all, given that it requires such disturbance of the land and sensibilities of people in such a natural, even sacred setting. The answer, as Bruce Cockburn once penned in a song, “depends on what you look at, obviously….but even more, it depends on the way that you see.” Which is to say that there is an honest debate here. Which brings me back to those guys who built the first reservoir 85 years ago. When they cut the trees and dug the earth and built the building and installed those pipes back then, they created a gift that has been in continuous use by all who have visited the land since. That gift is at the end of its functional life, and now it is time to renew the gift, to “pay it forward” to all people who will visit the springs for the next 100+ years. Many of our guests have been incredibly supportive, understanding that creating sustainable human habitat requires ingenuity, investment and sacrifice.

Which nudges the next question: what is a working definition of sustainable human habitat? Again, it depends on the way that you see. At the core, it involves taking care of peoples’ essential needs for water, food, warmth, shelter and basic energy. Projects like our reservoir and pipeline are necessary within this definition. We’ve done similar big projects in the past—we’ve drilled geothermal wells and dug miles of trenches for pipes, all of which now provides heat to our cabins; we’ve opened several acres of forestland to create the septic system and parking lot required by the State to open up to the public.

Pure drinking water and fire protection inside the Lodge don’t come without a price. Like those workers in 1928, the current generation of Breitenbush Community is doing the work to install this critical Reservoir building and the essential infrastructure that distributes the water to people and structures.

The next 7 generations will benefit.

– Peter Moore