Saturday, August 2, 2008

July 23th -25th – Bell Island Hot Springs

Sunken Chris Craft at docks
Mike taking Scupper for a Row
Kobi's Turn

Dave & Scupper practising Roll Overs
Wayne in the Kitchen at the Lodge
1/2 Olympic Size Hot Spring
Toys Left Behind
Main Docks
Three Crushed Boats in their boathouse
Last Man Standing
Cathy waiting for the ladder
Main Lodge

Dining Area in Main Lodge
Remains of the Boardwalk
Back in 2004 when we were last here, the Hot Springs were privately owned, we pulled up to the dock this time and it is totally deserted. The boardwalk is half fallen down and there is a big black bear wandering around the cabins having a feed. We all don our runners and make our way to the resort , half through the boardwalk and half through the brush. It’s a weird and eerie feeling when we get to the resort, stuff is still sitting on the table, the cabins are all neatly made up and one of the cabins still has rotten food in the fridge. But the “Piece d’resistance” is the Olympic size swimming pool that is a hot spring! The water is a great temperature of around 105 degrees and we are the only people there other than the animals. Things have been ransacked and all buildings are starting to show the signs of the neglect and there is lots of moisture in the cabins and main meeting area. Its such a shame! While looking through some strewn around paper, we find out that the owners of the place are Starky and Jean Olsen from Texas. We decide to spend a couple of days here exploring and we do some shenanigans with the hotspring by bringing up one of the kayaks and practicing “Rollovers” in the pool!
Another boat pulls up in the morning for a hot spring and it turns out its one of the owners of the Happy Bear tavern that we frequented when we were in Ketchikan. He fills us in on the history, the hot springs have been in existence since 1904 and the pool was built sometime in the 40’s. It was public until the early 1980’s when Starky bought it and it then became a playground for the idle rich. Something obviously happened in the last four years as we were told that the caretaker just walked away and no one has been on premise for over a year. Its hard to imagine that the disrepair has only happened in the last year! To top it off there are 2 or 3 boats under a boat shed out front that has collapsed and there is about a 36’ Chris Craft that has sunk and is visible at low tide at the head of the dock. Guess money doesn’t buy everything. There is still an ATV and four generators in one of the buildings, but the boardwalk has fallen down around the building so its doubtful that anyone will be able to come in to ransack and leave with these items.
Mike has been ranting and raving about this place and how a person such as himself could spend the rest of his life here fixing up the place and bringing it back up to standard and re-opening to the public. Good luck with that!! (says Betty)

46 comments:

  1. I guess tresspassing is what you call it! Your blog is not totally correct.

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  2. I the owners just walk a way from it. NORTHWEST DISCOVERY JOINT VENTURE (aka Starkey A Wilson) and
    (aka) Drees Co. has over the last ten years let it go!!
    Thare is a Right of Way and Grant of Access which granted a pedestrian right of way across the walkways to the wooden walkways to the National Forest.

    It was a grate HOT SPRINGS.
    I hope it can be fix some day.

    I like to buy it and fix it up.

    COOLHAND

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  3. Dear Anonymous - it is not trespassing, there is a right of way on the docks......we only took out photographs...Others have done a terrific job of vandalism that is a shame
    Betty

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  4. Just got back from visiting Rediscovery Lodge -- the main lodge is now completely collapsed. The bridge and spring connection to the pool are destroyed. Very tragic!

    We'll post more details later...

    Dennis, Brian, Walt and Jeffrey.

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  5. I used to go to Bell Island every year for Labor Day weekend when I was a kid in the early 70's. The boardwalk used to go up to a couple of different lakes. The cabins had electricity & claw foot tubs. The pool was fantastic & warm like bath water. We used to fish off the bridge that crossed over from the main lodge to the swimming pool. They had the best smoked salmon that they smoked useing an old refrigerator. I beleive it went to a private members only lodge about '76 or so. They also had about 10 skiffs with outboards that were available to guests. We used to clean are fish on the dock closest to the shore where a couple of black bears hung out eating the fish &/or guts that were thrown to them. It's sad to hear that the place is all but abandoned. When they were open to the public they were very busy with tourists (and us locals) that would fly in or come in on our boats. If it could get back to the way it was then, it might be quite proffitable with the fishing, hiking, hunting available, & to soak in the warm waters of the hot springs.

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  6. THE owner e-mail starkeywilson@yahoo.com

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  7. I worked ther in the summer of 1969 as a dock hand and a fishing guide. We would take people out fishing that had come from all over the world. Japan, England, and the states. It was such a fun place to work and the Lodge was always bustling with the smell of GOOD Food. There is a great lake on the island that provided excellent trout fishing.What a Shame! The Lodge was full of casino owners from Vegas and those guys really new how to party and Fish. Seeing the pictures sure brings back some great memories. Don Nelson

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  8. I have fond memories of Bell Island, I worked there when I was turning 21. At the time the owners/proprioters were Don and Diane Peterson, not the greatest pay for such hard work, but met so many wonderful guests, and had great adventures with our work crew and friends who stopped in to visit. It is sad to see it so run down now. In 1980 Don had the boardwalk replaced, we painted the cabins exteriors, plus the pool house, cleaned the pool ( I loved that pool, swam in it everymorning before I started my workshift. I loved seeing the bears, and eagles and going fishing myself and with the crew when we were allowed time to have time to fish. We loved tossing all the fish cleanings to our dear "Oscar" the large otter who lived under the dock knowing good eats were always available. Good fishing for trout upstream, and loved hiking to the lakes. We wore the jukebox out and played pool in the main lodge. I lived in one of the two rooms behind the pool house. I could only hope one day someone invests in restoring this historical place, I would love to see it again someday, heee but as a tourist not a worker. JW

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  9. August 12, 2009 Me and a few friends checked it out. It is definately getting worse and a little unsafe in and on the structures. Does anyone know if the owner is interested in selling it?
    JR

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  10. the owner do's not what to sell it.

    that what he emailed to me..

    coolhand

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  11. This makes me so very sad. I grew up in Ketchikan and went to the hot springs every summer with my grandparents, and brother on my grandpas yacht the weather-or-knot.

    I worked at Bell Island (Rediscovery Lodge) the summers of 1984, 1985, and 1986. As a teenager this was the GREATEST job and I had some of the best times of my life there.

    Starkey had grand plans of fixing up the lodge, in fact, I believe that I might still have a photo of the blue prints of what should have been.

    My grandfather, Bill Simonds, is gone now. I have 2 children, 20 and 14. I would love to be able to share Bell Island with my kids and my future grandkids. The Wilson family needs to do the right thing and give Bell Island back to the locals. It is a part of who we are for so many of us.

    Diane Walker (dianelwalker1967@yahoo.com)

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  12. Wow. When I was a young boy, friends of mine who's dad worked with Alaska Coastal Airlines had a boat called the 'Zoomie' and we would fly from Juneau to Ketchikan and then spend several weeks cruising in the Zoomie. Bell Island was one of the stops. I remember the boardwalk, the pool, the lodge. Many great memories when Alaska was far different.

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  13. mabey the state of alaska should buy it -the hot springs in sitka is state owned and anyone can use it.

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  14. Ya... I was a guest passenger aroung Revillagigado Island and we stopped at Bell Island (naturally). That was back in the mid 1980's.
    So sad... and this is not the only place that has on that way. C.B.

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  15. Worked there in 1984, 85 & 86
    Sick about what I see.
    Terrible WASTE!!!
    Joined Return Bell Island Hot springs back to the people. On face Book.

    His excuse was it was vandelized...LOL
    even after troopers take a report they let you
    clean up and move on, while they investigate.

    This didn't need to end up like that.
    Rosalie Young
    Port Townsend, Wa

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  16. patroppel@gmail.comFebruary 27, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Like the other postings, we remember so many great times at Bell Island in the 1970s. I've collected information on the hot springs. A better history than this is in "Land of Mists", by Patricia Roppel.

    In 1994, I received a letter from the USFS, KTN ranger district, giving some of the chronology: April 27, 1918, plot of land patented. 1971 - Bell Island Hot Springs Resort was granted access to its resort thru survey 704 over a plank walkway connecting with a boardwalk over the tideland portion of Bell Island. The State of Alaska granted the same organization title to the tide and sumerged lands under and adjacent to the structures that provide access to the resort on the condition that Bell Island Hot Springs grant a public pedestrian right of way thru Survey 704 and over the structures. The half mile USFS trail begins beyond the private land and ends at lower Bell Lake. The boardwalk in 1971 was in disrepair.
    Herb Schab of Ketchikan owned the hot springs resort for a number of years. He had a cement and gravel business and he is the one that put in the swimming pool. He sold it in January 1974 to Jim and Veris Dykes of Port Orchard, WN.
    I have a copy of another letter from Donald S. Peterson, president of Bell Island Hot Springs to the effect that he is selling the resort October 1, 1984. He purchased it in Jan. 1978 and was an Edmond's Wn. architect. His wife Diane had cancer and died within 9 months of the diagnosis.
    Someone must remember if Peterson is the one who sold to Alaska Airlines?
    By 1988, Starey owned the property. Under the name American Aqua-Culture Corp. he applied for a private nonprofit salmon hatchery permit to raise kings and cohos that would return and provide his guests with fishing opportunities. Nothing came of this.

    Teddy and Richard Head were caretakers there in maybe 2006 and were not rehired so no one was there full time after that.

    So sad. What great camaraderie took place at Bell Island during the summer!

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  17. As I recall, there was another owner's representative in the mix just after Herb and Henrietta had sold it by the name of Bob Giersdorf. He was fairly high up in the Alaska Airlines hierarchy as a vice president for sales and marketing and had his father managing Bell Island that summer. Alaska Airline's credit was so slim at that time that they were flying their beer all the way from Seattle and then bringing it up to Bell Island by Goose. As we had done every year previously, when the Ketchikan locals came up in our boats and skiffs, we all generally brought our own comestibles, wine, and booze with us, barbequed steaks and salmon down on the docks, partied hearty all weekend, and only bought a few beers up at the lodge and swam in the pool. Consequently, the Giersdorf's made very little money from us and it soon became apparent that the locals were no longer welcome. Those years in the 60's when Henrietta (Herb and his cocker spaniel Bobo always went to bed early) ran the operation were great fun and we were fortunate just to have been there at the right time. Finally, I'm surprised someone hasn't mentioned meeting John Wayne and the Wild Goose at Bell Island. He stopped several times as he cruised through Southeast. Although I never met him at Bell Island, everyone who did said that his persona was the same as you would imagine from his movies. A great man.

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  18. I am just curious, what is the year, make, and model, of this boat?

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  19. Make and model of our boat is on the left hand side of the page at the top of the page somewhere.
    Betty D

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  20. So is the hot spring fed pool not working? Post above mentioned this anyone know??

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  21. when the main building colapsed it broke the pipes to the pool so the pool is cold now

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  22. The state and/or the forest service needs to do something quick before the half full tank of aviation fuel at the top of the ramp down to the dock slips into the sea. It is bad enough that the place is completely destroyed, it would be even worse if all that junk - and more urgently fuel - gets into the water. It is hard to understand why the forest service has not taken this disaster more seriously, they have known about it for years. I know it is on private property but the tidal area is their domain. The whole situation is very sad. Starkey should have sold it 15 years ago when it could have been saved. Too late now.

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  23. Have you checked to see if the tidelands belong to the state. The old dock was state property until it was transferred to the lodge. Maybe state Environment outfit should check out the gas.

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  24. Hi, My name is Dave Ward, I worked at Bell Island in 1969 when I was 17 and just out of high school. I worked in the kitchen for a woman named Barbara Brock. I stayed in one of the old bathhouses at the end of the boardwalk. I had a memorable summer, I met John Wayne! Bob Giersdorff introduced me to him. He shook my hand down by the dock, and he drank bloody marys and shot pool at the lodge. He was just like he was in the movies. Friendly and down to earth.
    Seeing the pictures on this blog is amazing yet sad. I returned to Bell Island in 1975 when I worked for fish and game, and it was still in pretty good shape.
    Were you there working in 1969? email me at www.davewardlandscape@gmail.com!

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  25. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2032104&l=1d5017037b&id=1124554976

    hope you can access my recent pictures here

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  26. My dad had access to the Zoomie in the sixties, we visited Bell Island at least 3 times. I remember being in the pool when a helicopter landed nearby, flipping the 'astroturf' carpet oover the top of us, scaring the heck out us kids. It was our favorite place to visit in those summers....

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  27. hi my name is Steve Hansen. I have been trying to contact Wilson Starkey for sometime now. If anyone has any contact information on any of the owners, please contact me at (907) 617 0926

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  28. The State of Alaska should condem the Bell Hotsprings and take it over rebuild and open it up to public. TW

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  29. Just a tidbit out of SitNews June 9, 2010

    "In 1970, Bell Island's renowned streelhead run was immortalized when eight year old David White caught a 42 pound, 2 ounce steelhead that was first mistaken for a king salmon because it was nearly 30 percent larger than any other steelhead ever caught. White's steelhead - an ocean going rainbow trout - remained the world record steelhead for more than 35 years before for it was finally topped by two steelhead caught in Canadian lakes in the late 2000s.

    In 1973, Schaub sold the property to Jim Dykes of Port Orchard, Washington.

    During Dykes ownership a prominent local man nearly died at the resort. Robin Taylor - before he became a state legislator and a Superior Court judge - was seriously injured when his boat exploded at the dock. Taylor was blown into the water by the blast which also damaged gas pumps, rental skiffs and the float and the gangway."

    http://www.sitnews.us/Kiffer/BellIsland/060910_Bell_Island.html

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  30. . . . another tidbit from SitNews June 9, 2010

    "In 1984, Peterson sold Bell Island to Northwest Discovery Joint Venture of Dallas, Texas which consisted of William Shoemaker, Starkey Wilson and Richard Bass. Initially, the resort continued to operate as a public facility but eventually became a private club that was no longer open to the public.

    In 1990, the owners announced a proposal to create a "salmon ranch" at the property, which had been renamed Rediscovery Lodge. The idea was that a hatchery would be developed that would rear coho, king and steelhead eggs that were purchased from other facilities, including the Deer Mountain Hatchery, as well as some natural locations such as Bell Island creek.

    But nothing came of that plan and by 1993 the resort was back in the courts as previous owner Donald Peterson was suing the Texas owners, claiming they hadn't made payments on the property since 1991.

    When the legal machinations were complete, Starkey Wilson of Dallas, Texas was the sole owner of the property and continues to be to this day.

    Recently, Wilson - who has an extensive history as a miner and geologist in Texas and Alaska - announced plans to develop a geothermal energy plant in the Bell Island area. He has applied for federal grant funding to study the potential of the power source."

    Now if there was a Right of Way and Grant of Access that was supposed to be kept up as part of the deal with the State of Alaska and has not been done for several years maybe this is enough for the State to condem the property and take it back. Just some food for thought. TW

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  31. I find it very sad that the resort has been so neglected.

    I lived in Ketchikan during the early 1970's and have some very fond memories of Bell Island Hot Springs, having spent the better part of the 1976 tourist season at the resort.

    Jim Dykes and his wife were wondeful owners, showing true Alaskan hospitality when they volunteered to host my wedding in August of 1976. Jim conducted the ceremony and even housed our overnight guests for free. Also, I'm sure the resort guests didn't know what to think when they saw Jim delivering the bride and groom to their cabin in the bucket of a mini tractor driven down the boardwalk.

    While Bell Island Hot Springs, in pristine condition, will live on in the memories of those who had the privilege to visit, we can only hope that it's future is brigher than it's present.

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    Replies
    1. Betty, I came to your wedding and yes great times. I drove my motorcycle to be there from Oregon. Scott

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  32. Starkey A Wilson
    1405 Rollins Dr
    Allen, TX 75013
    972-908-3635

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  33. starkeywilson whants 4to5m$ for the hot spring

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  34. After reading all of these comments I too find it so sad seeing and reading of the condition of this resort. I visited this wonderful place when I was 7 or 8 back in '74 or '75. My parents were friends with Howard & Sharon Brand of Ketchikan and we travelled to Bell Island on his Grand Banks. What great memories of the boat-ride, arriving at the resort dock (black bears on hand looking for hand outs!) We ate at the lodge, swam in the warm waters of the hot spring pool and watched the bears eat the fishermen's givings. I hope someone does get the gumption to buy this place and bring it back to what it should be again...

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  35. am totally curious who you are anonymous..my dad was great friends with howard and i also viseted bell island on the zoomie...we most know one another

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  36. A local group of Ketchikanites should get together and form a board. They should contact the USFS and the State of Alaska Environmental division. This should be turned into a park for everyone to enjoy, much like Baranof Hot Springs, and Gotter Hot Springs in Sitka. This is not just a shame, but just plain neglect for an area that provides so much enjoyment for the residents of Alaska and the world.

    Lets make this happen, below is the new owner:

    Starkey A Wilson
    1405 Rollins Dr
    Allen, TX 75013
    972-908-3635

    Email me if you would like to get together and formulate an efficient way to get back a piece of Alaska, that should of never been given away....

    mrbigglesworth1@hotmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Been following these comments and I too am sad to see what has happened. I worked there the month of September, 1983. Seems most of the crew quit and myself and several others were hired out of the Seattle area to work the busy coho time. Joel Burnette was the dock manager who I worked under. There was Bob Coolidge, Barb Galley, Laura Ingalls, Dan, Cliff the cook and others. Don and Diane Peterson did own the place and there was obvious friction going on between those two. Pay was $350.00 month plus a share of the tips which I received in $1's, $5's and $10's. We knew we were being taken by Diane but what could you do. Was called back to work there about mid August 1984 as they offered me a "raise" to $500 month. Was sad to see the place run on a shoe string as Don was selling and did not want to invest in the place. Freezers for the fish didn't work right, bait was old, food, even for the guests came mostly out of old surplus cans. Big wigs would fly in from Texas who were the investors, a fine batch of yahoos if there ever was. They had these grand blue prints of what was to be done, they truly cared less about any history or local value. Myself and the crew were the last to shut her down under Don's watch. I remember taxing out on an otter, leaving Don on the dock by himself and not a sole else. I got along fine with him and wonder if he is still around. Truly sad to see such a historic place fall to pieces. So much history and potential if only us local S.E. Alaskans could get a hold of it. I could write a book on my times there, the crew, guests and vessels that tied up. No one would believe half of what I'd write but I wouldn't trade the memories for anything. Glad to see folks talking about the place. I can be reached at AKtroller61@gmail.com

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    2. I too feel saddened by the state of disaster I saw this week. It's such a shame and waste for all. We first visited Bell Island Hotsprings in 1956, and the downward slide has made a dirty mark on Alaska's beautiful landscape. It would seem that the Environmental Protection agency in Alaska could, at the least, force the owners to clean up the tidelands...there's a boat sunk at the dock and a septic tank, with pipes, etc. being washed over with every tide....an aviation fuel tank (1/2 full?) ready to roll in to the bay along with other pollutants. Has anyone tried to contact the EPA?

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  37. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?pid=160259882

    Where does that leave the hot springs now?

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  38. Hi everyone,

    I had just emailed Mr. Wilson before I found out that he had passed away on the 2nd. My thoughts are with his family.

    I'd like to organize a non-profit to try to get into Bell Island and resurrect a resort there. I live in Ketchikan, and am ideally suited to get into this project. Anyone who would like to help out or is more familiar with the situation than I am (I'm relatively clueless, to be honest), please get in touch with me at rjschleicher@yahoo.com or 907-220-7648.

    Thanks everyone,

    Russ

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  39. Mrs. Wilson is trying to sell Bell Island. Information from a reliable source.

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  40. Bell Island looks to be for sale. For $1.75m it can be yours!

    http://www.remax-ketchikan-alaska.com/all-properties/bell-island-st-not-on-list-see-add2/

    I have to think it would take about the same amount of money to restore the place.

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  41. just had nice talk with the people at yes bay last fall the hole dock just end up at yes bay, and had to take it back. the hole place has been looted of stuff, it just a big junk yard now! to clean it up will cost $1.50m that is for the the clean up only.

    to bad was a nice place!

    coolhand

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  42. I see in April 2013 Arntzen Realtors MLS #12256 has it listed at a cool $1,750,000 Dollars...not Pesos. An Internet search will bring up Starkey A. Wilson's Obituary in West,Texas from October of 2012. In the end a 'nuther "ALL HAT...NO CATTLE" story. Too bad the State doesn't file a Lein on it and clean it up..as it's an Environmental Hazard now.
    LocomotivmanTom

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  43. here is an outfit that is trying to raise the money to clean it up and reopen it. spread it around ... http://www.gofundme.com/3ikt74

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