AP NEWS

REVIVING MAPLE GROVE: Seven like-minded individuals jump aboard to preserve popular hot springs

May 1, 2019

Maple Grove Hot Springs and Retreat Center is a basecamp for relaxation. Filled with mineral hot pools, an ensemble of over-night options including fully furnished yurts, cabins, canvas tents and personal tent-sites, and 45 acres of scenic landscape by the Oneida Narrows Reservoir, it has drawn crowds of souls seeking and peace and rest.

Which is why it was like a death in the family when the hot springs located 20 miles northeast of Preston closed until further notice in October, said Jordan Menzel.

“I visited Maple Grove this past September, and it really resonated with me,” Menzel said. “You fall in love with the Bear River Valley, the reservoir, all the pristine quiet of the area. It was almost a spiritual experience with the ecosystem, but I also had a sorrowful experience with all of the disrepair around the place.”

Those who saw the closed-until-further-notice sign may have been disheartened — the location had seen an overturn in owners in its many years of running — but for a handful of individuals, it was an opportunity.

Menzel was one of these individuals. Despite his eclectic background that involved the world of software and international development, Menzel was always attracted to nature and had even renovated, lived in and rented out a 1970s Airstream trailer in downtown Salt Lake City. It was during this process that he saw a thread of interest in minimal living and started searching for land or possibilities.

Then came the fall of 2018 when Maple Grove enraptured his interest and the interests of six other like-minded individuals. Together, they were mutual in their desire to revive and sustain the hot pools and churn it back to life. But they intend to do more than just keep it open.

“We are aware customers are very eager to come back,” said Menzel, who is now one of the owners and is general manager of the venture. “We are trying to be sensitive to their desire, but we are committed to do it right the first time so when we open we are open for good.”

The hot springs has always see-sawed between renovations and disrepair, which is the cycle that the partnership intends to break.

Together, they brought to the table a strict set of goals that they intend to thread through the business in a way that would keep it sustainable, preserve what visitors most loved about it, and renaturalize the environment. It may be a balancing act, but it is one that Menzel and his partners are taking seriously.

“We are full steam in renovations right now, but we want to get it right,” he said.

While they did hit a few rough patches during the financing stage, they eventually closed the deal in early April and have many tasks that are currently underway. Along with cleaning up and adding new furnishings to their two yurts and six canvas bell tents, they are also fixing the roof of the reception center lodge, building a 30-foot retreat center yurt that also serves as a gathering hall, and completely redoing the energy and solar systems to make the entire location off the grid and eco-friendly. They are also adding community building areas around fire pits intended to bring strangers together while out enjoying nature, Menzel said.

Another project they are in the process of is called deconstruction and renaturalization, where they take down structures like metal fences and barbed wire and turn the area back over to the land.

“We want to create a culture around the land,” Menzel said. “We want to have a place that creates peace where people can recharge and reengage with nature. We also want to acknowledge its past use as hot pools that Shoshone tribes and indigenous people used for healing and winter rests.”

Another big shift they are incorporating is implementing a booking system for their pools and overnight spots. Guests can book a visit via phone or online and reserve a time of their choosing. There will be once-a-month open-lunge weekends that will be available to allow for treasured spontaneity.

This change is intended to maintain the quiet, natural atmosphere the partnership is trying hard to preserve.

“Instead of people wondering if it’ll be too crowded on any specific day, individuals can just hop on a calendar and pick a window of time to make sure there’s never going to be more people than the space can accommodate,” he said. “We aim to reduce noise and crowds so guests can have quiet, pristine, predicatable experiences.”

As far as when Maple Grove will reopen, Menzel and the other partners are working hard to have most of the work done around June, but there are no concrete promises.

“It’s a big endeavor,” he said.

For now, Menzel encourages those interested in learning more about the hot pools, retreat rentals and nightly getaways, including opening dates, to visit maplegrovesprings.com.

No matter the wait, however, he says it will be worth it.

“It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles eating fish, swans flying overhead, turkeys walking around, deer eating plants,” he said. “All that is offered here, it’s all an invitation to reconnect out here in nature.”