March 1, 2016 by Joe Kukura

Help Lake County’s world-renowned natural healing center rebuild

Of the more than 1,200 homes and nearly 70 businesses destroyed by the tragic Valley Fire in September of last year, one of the most iconic businesses lost was Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown, California. What has long been one of California’s most popular retreat centers, Harbin Hot Springs lost roughly 95 percent of its facility in the fire and the resort was forced to suspend operations. As many as half of Harbin’s trees were scorched and its meadows were badly charred, altering the Harbin landscape forever. Harbin’s water and electrical infrastructure were obliterated, and the area was rendered uninhabitable. For the Harbin Hot Springs staff who lived in resident housing, this meant the loss of their home and possessions as well as their livelihood and income.

Harbin Hot Springs Temple

The Temple was an iconic place for yoga and mediation that will hopefully rise again.

But Harbin Hot Springs is not forever lost. Its closure is only temporary, and people were able to help the Harbin Hot Springs community get back on its feet. The Harbin Staff Relief Fund was established to help the nearly 300 personnel who lost their homes and/or source of income to the fire. The fundraising drive ended on March 12—the six-month anniversary of the day the Valley Fire struck.

The relief fund has already received more than $250,000 in generous donations. “I can’t stress how emotionally supportive it was for our folks to know that these funds were coming in,” Harbin’s managing director assistant, Eric Richardson explained. “The fund seemed to symbolize that the world was watching us, and that we weren’t alone in our confusion and suffering. We kept hearing about how it was growing on its own accord without us fundraising in any significant way. Somehow there was a comfort in knowing this.”

But more help is still urgently needed.

Each resident and staff member received a check for just under $1,000, but they have been out of work and without pay for nearly six months. The final stretch of donations is important to help these people remain in Lake County and help put Harbin Hot Springs back together.

The rebuilding effort of Harbin Hot Springs 2.0 is already underway, and a phased reopening plan has just been announced. The pools are scheduled to reopen to day visitors and camping guests in late summer or autumn, according to the recent announcement. The second phase will rebuild the overnight cottages and Harbin’s famed “domes,” with an expected completion date sometime in 2017. The third and final phase will see the full reconstruction of new conference and workshop facilities, staff housing, a restaurant and a market with a target completion date of 2019 and beyond.

Still, the most immediate needs are the human needs of the Harbin Hot Springs staff who lost everything. From massage therapists to plumbers, cashiers, yoga instructors, phone operators and so many other staff, the loss of Harbin has driven them to temporary housing and frightening uncertainty. Harbin Hot Springs has been around for more than 150 years, and its waters enjoyed by the people of the Pomo tribe centuries before that. Now Harbin needs something back.

The waters of Harbin Hot Springs have provided healing to many of the resort’s patrons and fans, and now it is Harbin that needs healing. Please give generously to the Harbin Staff Relief Fund to help the dedicated stewards of Harbin Hot Spring endure this difficult period.

And come visit Lake County; help the shops, restaurants, hotels, wineries, antique shops, campgrounds and other businesses affected by the Valley Fire get back on their feet as well. With all of our efforts and support, we can make Harbin Hot Springs 2.0—and the beautiful area that surrounds it—come back stronger than ever.

 

Photo by Luiza Leite Photography