Holden Village is located in the Cascade Range in Washington, in the Wenatchee National Forest. Inaccessible by car, visitors (volunteers, guests, and through-hikers) generally take a ferry up Lake Chelan from Chelan or Fields Point Landing to Lucerne where they board a bus which takes them up an 11-mile gravel road through a set of 12 switchbacks, and into Holden Village. Holden staff and guests greet arriving buses with welcoming applause. It is also possible to hike into Holden Village through the Cascade Mountains using a number of routes.
Because Holden Village remains nearly as isolated today as it was at its founding, it is still impossible to reach the Village by car alone, unless you happen to have one in Lucerne. Buses leave Holden Village in the morning and head down the mountain on a treacherous set of switchbacks. The landing on Lake Chelan associated with Holden Village is called Lucerne, and it is here that the buses meet the daily boats coming and going. A ferry from Chelan, runs two boats to and from Lucerne. These boats ferry people up and down the lake, making stops at the town of Stehekin, trailheads, personal properties, and at Lucerne for visitors of Holden Village.
The Mining Era Edit
In 1896, James Henry Holden made his first claim on the area which would later become Holden Village. However, because of the expense and difficulty involved in transporting copper from the isolated mine, the operation did not begin its full productivity until 1937. By 1938 the mine had become successful and processed 2,000 short tons (1,800 tonnes) of copper ore daily. With the success of the mine came miners and their families, still recovering from the Great Depression. The Howe Sound Company, which owned the mine at the time, built a townsite on the north side of Railroad Creek soon after the mine began to thrive. The townsite, Holden, Washington, consisted of a number of dormitories, a gymnasium, bowling alley, mess hall, school, and hospital, among other things. West of the townsite was a patch of small houses intended for miners with families in tow.
The Holden Mine and the town of Holden flourished for many years despite the isolation. However, after World War II the price of metals fell and the resources of the mine began to diminish. The mine was closed in 1957.
The Village Edit
With the closing of the mine in 1957, the Howe Sound Company sought a buyer for the Holden Mine and townsite. With an asking price of $100,000, the remote piece of property did not sell. However, Wes Prieb, a man active in the Lutheran Bible Institute (now known as Trinity Lutheran College), saw the potential for a spiritual retreat center at the old mine. Originally he asked the Howe Sound Company to give the mine to the Lutheran Church as a gift. The company initially refused, but eventually agreed to sell the mine and townsite for one dollar.
With the purchase of the mine and buildings came a multitude of problems for the Lutheran Bible Institute. The structures were old and suffering from several years of neglect. Many were becoming structurally unsafe; the remainder did not meet modernized building codes. With the help of large brigades of volunteers, the Lutheran Bible Institute successfully restored and refurbished many of the buildings. The Village began to function as a summer retreat center soon afterward. Originally, the Lutheran Bible Institute imagined a summer-only center, and kept limited staff on hand for the first few winters. However, both the infrastructure needs of the community and the natural beauty of Holden Village in the winter led to the creation of a year-round retreat center.
Mine Remediation Edit
The Howe Sound Company's Holden Mine was profitable in part by making few outlays for the impacts of its on-site operations. For example, the low-grade copper ore was concentrated and the tailings were dumped next to the mine portal, covering many acres of wetlands. Although this practice was not unusual for its time, it took place within a remote and otherwise untouched area subsequently surrounded on 3 sides by federally designated wilderness (The Glacier Peak Wilderness Area). Modern regulations put into place after the mine's closure prohibited such practices, and ultimately the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared the Holden Mine area as a Superfund site. The impact from the former mining operations at Holden are only mild compared to other Superfund sites in the United States in terms of their impact on human populations because the area is so remote from population centers. The waters of Railroad Creek flow directly past the tailing piles, which introduces significant amounts of iron to the water, reducing the stream's biodiversity as well as cementing the stream bed.
Prior to the interim action of 1989, when the tailing piles were covered with gravel, winds above 10 mph (16 km/h) would often spread the fine dust in the tailing piles through the air, lowering air quality locally. Holden and its partner agencies have reduced wind-borne air pollution from the tailing piles by planting trees atop the tailing piles, with mixed success. Federal and state agencies have also sought solutions to mineral contamination of the water flowing from the mine into the Railroad Creek watershed. Rio Tinto Group was identified by the EPA as the Potentially Responsible Party in the EPA's process of identify the corporate entity currently liable for the remediation costs. The process of finding a mutually agreeable solution to these problems was a long and onerous one, but an agreement was eventually reached. The negotiations between state, federal, and Holden Village entities and the public can be seen in a federal report and its fourteen proposed alternative solutions.
Remediation efforts occurred during the years of 2011-2015. In the summer of 2011, Holden conducted their normal program, but also began to see work and workers (up to 65) in and around the Village. Continuing during the summer of 2012, these "Early Works" projects prepared the way for the "Heavy Construction" years of 2013-2015. During 2013-2015 Holden Village made creative changes to its program as they housed and fed 200+ construction people working in shifts 24/7 on the project. During the summer of 2016, the Village expects to resume full programming with a number of construction workers on site (65 or so) finishing up the project. There will then be a five-year period of testing and analysis to determine whether further work will be necessary in the eastern portion of the affected area. If required, this additional work would have an undetermined (at this time, at least) impact on Holden Village.
Today, Holden Village operates as a year-round retreat center. It relies heavily on volunteers for all day-to-day services. The Village respects and welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds as a part of their community. Holden Village is inundated with visitors during the summer months when families come to stay for a few days, a week, or a month at a time. Holden Village runs a variety of programming in the summers, with classes focusing on science, theology, art and philosophy for all age levels. Winters in the village are much more quiet, although it is a popular destination during the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Holden Village receives large amounts of snow in the winter (averaging over 260 inches (6.6 m)) makingsnowshoeing and cross-country skiing favorite activities.