Breitenbush Hot Springs has been a destination for centuries: a gathering place for native tribes, a popular camping destination in early Oregon, and now a very popular getaway guests often have to book well in advance, even just for a day pass.
It’s also a worker-owned co-op, and Breitenbush employees live and work on the 154-acre property, maintaining the grounds, managing guest services, and more. According to station forest steward Paul Clearfire, acts of service are deeply rooted in Breitenbush culture. Since the current version of the century-old resort opened in 1977, guests have been coming to stay at discounted rates in exchange for “meaningful work.”
In recent years, the weeks of volunteer service at Breitenbush, about two and a half hours southeast of Portland in the Willamette National Forest, have been particularly important. In 2020, the Lionshead Fire destroyed 73 structures and 101 acres of land in Breitenbush, and they had to rebuild from scratch.
“We are really in triage here, again, fires”, said Clearfire. “Interest has never been higher than it is now for [volunteer] here, and there is so much to do.
Volunteers from past weeks of service may have spent their time helping in the kitchen, painting, or doing maintenance. Since the fire, however, Breitenbush employees have needed help planting native wildflower trees and seeds, clearing the land of debris and, at times, consciously planting (or not planting) to help put out the fires. fires.
“There is a large burnt area on the edge of our community that used to be forest. So what we’re doing is rather than building there, or replanting trees there, we’re putting a wildflower meadow there to act as a firebreak, so the next time the fires will break out, we will have a bit more time before the fire actually reaches us,” says Clearfire.
This year’s service weeks (long weekends, technically) are April 25-28, July 19-22, and October 11-14. Customers are asked to bring work gloves, safety glasses and clothing that can get muddy. A typical volunteer day, according to Clearfire, consists of a few hours of work sessions (separated by meals, soaking, and activities such as yoga or mindfulness workshops) in exchange for a 30% discount rate. on accommodation.– and of course, the chance to help restore this beloved place to its former glory and protect it for the future.
“In a world that is changing drastically because of human actions, here is a place where human actions can really have a positive influence,” says Clearfire. “We have an opportunity right now to act more consciously in our relationship with the forest around us.”