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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Peace, interrupted

Mine remediation project means updates for historic Holden Village

Pieces of earth-moving equipment reshape tailings piles at the Holden mine site next to Railroad Creek in the North Cascades.
Pieces of earth-moving equipment reshape tailings piles at the Holden mine site next to Railroad Creek in the North Cascades.
Mary Stamp Fig Tree

The serenity of Holden Village, a retreat center in the remote northern Cascade Mountains, is being interrupted by rumbles and scraping of heavy equipment.

Mining company Rio Tinto is in the midst of a multi-million dollar remediation project at the former mine.

After two years of “early works” projects, the main work is being done this summer and next, according to the Holden Village website. The focus of mitigation efforts is to keep contaminants out of ground and surface water.

The Howe Sound Holden Mine at Copper Peak shut down in 1957, after about two decades of operation. The 55 miles of tunnels in the mountain are filled with water that leaches heavy metals into ground water and Railroad Creek, which flows 11 miles to Lake Chelan.

Mining operations also left behind tailings – powder from rock crushed at a mill to extract copper, silver and gold. The tailings cover 80 acres, 100 feet deep, above the creek.

After remediation, water in the mine will be captured and directed to a treatment plant, which will remove contaminants before it is discharged into the environment.

Tailings will be graded and a wall will be built down to the bedrock beside the tailings to prevent them from collapsing into the creek and to direct water to the treatment plant. The tailings will be capped with two feet of gravel, seeded and reforested.

And the normal summer programs, which offer guests opportunities for worship, education, crafting and wilderness experiences, are suspended.

Holden co-directors Chuck and Stephanie Carpenter are putting their construction and programming skills to work as they lead renewal efforts in the village and two new programs, Holden on the Road and Holden on the Trail.

Usually Holden, which is accessible by a boat ride halfway up Lake Chelan and an 11-mile winding road, hosts more than 6,000 guests and volunteers, plus a staff of 100 to 150 each summer.

This summer, about 400 will be onsite, including the 200-member remediation crew.

The village staff will use the summers for construction and other updates, Chuck Carpenter said.

Volunteers and staff will work to replace the water main, sewer system and wildfire sprinkler system.

Village buildings need new porches, roofs, insulation, remodeling and new lighting to improve efficiency, Carpenter said. Because Holden is a historic landmark, remodeling has to follow guidelines for preservation.

Holden on the Trail will take teams onto the Pacific Crest Trail for weeklong work camps. Two staff members will lead volunteers in trail maintenance and engage in Bible study, worship and discussions.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Carpenter is partnering with other outdoor ministry sites around the United States for Holden on the Road – a program that gives people a taste of the Holden experience. The events “duplicate Holden rhythms with worship, teaching sessions, music, activities and adventures,” as well as providing the intergenerational mix found during summers in the village, according the Holden website.

In June, Holden on the Road was at Camp House in Minnesota.

Program coordinator Anna Czarnik-Niemeyer said that Camp House, “with no cell reception, no Internet for guests and surrounded by pines, it feels like Holden in the Midwest.”

Stephanie Carpenter said Holden’s vision of renewal melds with the mine remediation, which began with studies in 1995.

“Our values of ecology, place and being good stewards of this valley and this world support the clean up of waste and heavy metals left from the mining era,” she said.

Over the 50 years that the village has operated as a retreat center, thousands of people have come through Holden Village. Since the trip to the village usually involves at least three modes of transportation, it’s like a pilgrimage, Chuck Carpenter said. 

“Being removed from the daily routine opens people to explore their faith, rest in it and affirm it,” Stephanie Carpenter said.

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