Aletheia 2022 Fall Update :: Coming Current & Closing Our 7th Year
Dear Aletheia Community,
It's been a long time since we've reached out to formally update most of you as a cherished friend and supporter of Aletheia Springs. We've been remiss, and for this we feel the loss from the last two years. We've missed the contact and togetherness we knew and enjoyed with so many from our overlapping communities prior to the pandemic.
All things considered, we've been traversing this more focused and drawn-inward time fairly well in body and soul, thankfully. We've been working incredibly hard on some wonderful things we'd love to share with you all. The past year or two has also dealt us some pretty gnarly travails we'd like to bring you up to speed on. In either circumstance, we feel a great deal of resiliency and trust that we've been on the path we're meant to walk, showing up with our very best and meeting the unique constellation of both significant limitation and incredible opportunity.
That said, this is a longer update, because, well... it's been a long time since we've shared! ...and because at heart I'm a storyteller, and my ancestors are helping me to reclaim the oral tradition roots we all knew around the fire. So settle in with me, if you will –get a cup of something warm– and receive the latest chapters of this love story, for it is a love story and nothing less.
First, for those who haven't yet heard about the dreadful pool defraud and damage debacle, I'll give the quickie low-down version before sharing with you all about how you can help Aletheia in a TRULY BIG WAY as we prep for the December launch of our very first Morton's public fundraising campaign! (By the way, if you'd like to get Morton's updates directly, please join our Morton's Warm Springs Supporter email list.) Then we're very proud and excited to share about the wonderful grant-funded ecological restoration projects we've got cooking. Lastly, and perhaps most tender in our hearts–we want to invite you back to the Springs. As the trauma of the last years has ebbed, our desire to again invite regular opportunities to gather, circle, sing, work and be together here on the land has been steadily growing.
Almost exactly a year ago we hired a commercial pool contractor to repair the plaster and tile on our three aging historic pools. That person subbed out the job to an unscrupulous and psychologically unstable human who damaged our pools and absconded with $17,500 of our very hard-earned money. This event happened following the end of an incredible 2021 guest season- our strongest yet, both financially and operationally, and possibly the most wonderful guest experience the Springs have witnessed in a decade or more! I still feel a glowing pride remembering just how well we hit it out of the park last summer. If you were lucky enough to come, you may have caught a glimmer. We were worked to the bone, but it was a glorious scene. People were talking about how special this place is, spreading the word and bringing their friends. Memberships grew over 400%! People were really starting to deeply GET what it is we're truly going for –what our radical hearts most love and what we're here to uplift. It was amazing!
But I digress... In attempting to move on from last fall's pool debacle (hiring lawyers, seeking out other bids, etc.) we became mired in a much bigger situation than we anticipated where we were unable to fix the pools right away due to looming permitting uncertainty, skyrocketing prices, and evaporating funding options. The result of which was that we weren't able to open our public guest season throughout all of 2022.
In early May, we announced our closure to the public and shared our predicament in a Letter To Our Community. In the letter, we also began sharing more transparently the 'bigger picture' constraints the Springs have been burdened with for a generation now- constraints for which, in some ways, we're grateful. Because so few were either willing or able to try to untangle the confounding factors which had befallen the Springs during the previous twenty years, there was an open doorway we were able to step through to become the stewards of such a sacred and historic gem of a hot springs. However, these constraints–namely permitting, septic, economics, housing, ecology–need solutions. They've only become more unsustainable with each passing year in the face of the bigger cultural and environmental crises we face. In our Letter to Our Community, we also described the required pathway for these Springs to be able to fully step forward into a brighter, freer future– one that's ecologically and operationally sustainable, and far more harmonious with the needs and values of both her local valley and extended community.
After we published the letter, we received many supportive messages from folks who believe in us and our work and stewardship these past seven years. We had a couple of pieces in the press, in the Sonoma Index-Tribune and in the Kenwood Press. The Index-Tribune also published an op-ed from a community member voicing a passionate sentiment which so many of us related to– that there simply must be a pathway forward for these geothermal waters to reopen, and soon, as this place is far too precious and unique a resource for us all. Indeed, it'sthe last accessible, naturally spring-fed, outdoor geothermal pools you can find anywhere within our tri-county region, and the entire greater SF Bay Area.
So, where are we now with the pools and reopening to the public? Thankfully, after more than ten straight months of living frugally and working hard to find the way forward, we've finally landed on the right couple of contractors to fix our pools! And, with that, the financial picture for reopening in May has at last come into focus. The journey has been deeply challenging. We still can't quite believe it's taken this long just to find a few contractors who are knowledgeable and experienced enough that we trust them to do the job right this time. Unfortunately –and shockingly– this just hasn't been the case with many of the companies we've been talking with over the past year. Some bids came in with egregiously negligent mistakes we luckily found while others tried to push one "all-in" inflated sticker price with opaque details on what was even included as if it were a used car. They also all put forth wildly different strategies for how to work with the county to get through permitting, and it just didn't all add up.
It's hard to trust someone you've only just met to lead you through something so critical like this and during such a vulnerable moment. We're also dealing with a bit of trauma in our system from how we got into this pickle to begin with –trusting that a professionally presenting person knew what they were talking about, trusting his license and his reviews online, and trusting the industry at large. Well, in the mess of it all, Sean finally just took the bull by the horns, and he and Larry weighed out and integrated all the various concepts and advice from the myriad contractors– the result of which was a sound, streamlined, checked-and-double-checked plan that they then used to finally select and sign a solid and reputable contractor!
So now comes the true challenge. The final costs on all these bids? Most have been in the $250-300K range. And our trustworthy main plaster & tile guy that we just signed on with? He's coming in at just around $210K. I'll repeat, this is just repairing plaster and tile, y'all, and there are other components that need to be fixed or upgraded in order to get us back open. It's a bit jaw dropping, and it's been very tempting to feel deeply discouraged over the past months, especially considering that originally we'd planned $50K for a few "simple" repairs just 12 months ago. What the heck has been happening with the world this past year?! (That's rhetorical, btw. We know what's been happening and it's been pretty rough out there for a lot of folks.)
So how're we going to cover this? While we're not sure yet exactly how the funding will all come together, we're feeling good about the fundraising plans we've got in the works. We're also feeling resilient and optimistic that we'll get through this, and that we will be reopening in May. In all honesty, we need the lifeblood of guest season revenue flowing again if we're to continue to be here in service to this land and her community.
GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN ~ PLEASE JOIN OUR 'CATALYST CIRCLE!'
Our goal is to raise $300K by May of 2023. We aim to do this through a combination of GoFundMe donations, Matching Fund Investors, pre-sale season passes, and a spring fundraising festival event with silent auction on a Saturday in late April or early May.
We'll be launching the initial leg of this journey with a GoFundMe on or before December 1st. This will be the first fundraising we've ever done with the greater public and Morton's community, so it's pretty intimidating! It feels like a sizeable act of faith to step into this unknown, like a trust fall. The questions swirl... How much does the wider community actually support this place? Will all those emails and messages of support we received translate into real financial support? Is this place and all that we're working towards here valued by others as much as we value it ourselves?
Whew... Take a breath. Let the shakiness happen.
Morton’s has over 25,000 people come through the gates each year. If only 10% of those folks gave just an average of $20 to this cause, this would already get us to $50,000. So that's the GoFundMe goal we've set for this first leg of the journey–$50,000. This will immediately and directly support the pool repair to begin. Then, if we’re able to reach our goal of $50K, we’re going to go for a stretch goal of an additional $25,000 to reach a hopeful total of $75K raised towards the pool repairs and restoration.
Next, we’re working to line up a small but mighty cadre of Matching Fund Investors who will match whatever we raise on GoFundMe, up to $75K. This means finding just three new Aletheia Community Member Investors or Impact Investors who are moved to support the Aletheia Springs project with a 5-year term investment with a 3% annual return.
If we are successful with this, it will arrive us at a grand total of $150,000 raised for Morton’s– we'd be halfway there! Then, after the new year, we'd begin the final leg to raise the last $150K starting with pre-sale season passes and ending with the May fundraising festival & grand reopening event.
Okay... time for another breath. That's a lot.
We can do this.
Or, as the wise saying goes... We alone can do this, but we can't do it alone.
There are two truly impactful ways you, our dear friends, family, community, allies and supporters of Aletheia, can powerfully assist us to make this crossing in what feels like Aletheia's next big rite of passage...
1 • Please stand with us in our GoFundMe 'Catalyst Circle'–the support ring of folks committed to making an early contribution and sharing our campaign as soon as it launches. Energetically (and statistically), this will make the biggest difference in our success.
2 • If you have the financial means, please consider becoming one of our Matching Fund Investors with a 5-Year investment of $25K up to 75K. This can also be done, and wonderfully so, via a self-directed IRA or retirement account. If you've ever considered becoming an Aletheia Community Member Investor or Impact Investor before, now is such a critically pivotal moment for us.
If you're interested and able to support with either of the huge supports above, please reply to this email to let us know of your interest or intent! Feeling this 'Catalyst Circle' ring gather together right away will do absolute wonders for our spirits.
GRANT-FUNDED RESTORATION PROJECTS IN THE WORKS!
Whew. That was hard. Now we get to share with you some less vulnerable stuff... some of the other work we've been up to lately–things we're feeling really proud of! We now have not one, not two, but three different grant-funded ecological restoration projects in the works. Two being quite major, with implementation further out, and one minor, with implementation happening this winter and spring!
Our Wildland Tending & Fire Mitigation project will be our first concerted foray into tending the wilder borders of our property along the back hillsides. We're partnering with the Restoration Team at the Sonoma Ecology Center to guide us and a team of volunteers over several pre-scheduled work party weekends to pull invasives, thin young thickets, restore some trails, ground dead limbs and trees, and limb up healthy ones. We are very proud to say that this initial round is being funded by two grants we've received, totaling $11,000, from the Community Foundation Sonoma County and our local Jack London Yacht Club!
We're hoping this project will be just the beginning of this type of work on the land as, over the next few years, we slowly restore our back hillside and woodland areas to a healthier state. If you're interested in being a volunteer and learning how to do this woodland restoration and fire mitigation work alongside us, let us know and we'll be sure to add you to our Volunteers Email List so you'll be among the first to know when this project gets scheduled!
Next, we are so very honored to have been chosen as Sonoma Ecology Center'sSonoma Creek Restoration Demonstration Site that will anchor their ambitious and inspiring Upper Sonoma Creek Restoration Vision. In partnership with Environmental Science Associates and the CDFW, this is a multi-million dollar grant-funded project that seeks to improve critical salmonid/steelhead habitat, reduce bank erosion, improve water quality and riparian habitat and all the biodiversity that it supports along this critical stretch of our Sonoma Valley watershed–of which our springs are a headwaters!– and which still freely flows from headwaters all the way to the San Pablo Bay and out the Golden Gate. The site of the restoration will be along a large stretch of our back parcel creek area, and is expected to break ground soon–either late summer 2023 or 2024!
Finally, we're again working with the Sonoma Ecology Center, this time in partnership with the well-respected local environmental design & engineering firm, Prunuske Chatham, on a grant-funded planning phase for a hopeful Water Retention & Reinfiltration project, which would store, cool and then slowly reinfiltrate the sizable amount of spring water leaving our pool systems each day into the creek channel and aquifer below. The intent of this project is to design and implement a way to far better return this precious water gift back into the watershed from which it comes, while simultaneously expanding riparian habitat (and charm) along a reconstructed corridor, increasing and improving critical streamflows during low summer months, providing a bulwark against wildfire risk, and repurposing the water perhaps even several times before it percolates its way back into the watershed.
These three projects all stitch together in our longer-arc work to create a 50+ Year Vision & Site Plan, which is the work we hope to recommence in 2023 with some wonderful humans who we're very honored to be working with at DHM Design, an award-winning environmental design firm specializing in hot springs restoration. This legacy site plan is the tool we will need in order to work closely together with the County of Sonoma on a use update for these historic Springs, which is the doorway to her protection and lasting legacy.
YOU'RE INVITED TO OUR HOT SPRINGS 'TUB CLUB'
It's amazing to reflect back on the last two years and see just how much we had to pull inward in order to stay sane and remain within the limited capacity we had. I know so many of you can deeply relate. In other ways it's also been a huge reprieve just to fully focus on what's most essential. But things are again shifting and the Aletheia project is coming to the close of a significant 7-year cycle –our first 7 years on the land (2023 begins year 8, holy wow!).
A very new and different chapter is emerging with some significant inner and outer restructuring and maturing. This next chapter will see the first of these major restoration projects which will actually begin to reshape the land and how the water flows here. It's also bringing us into a more public claiming of our deeper mission, vision and values as we take our next bold steps towards the emergent becoming of Aletheia and the beautiful composting of Morton's.... more on that coming soon.
But for right now, as far as wanting to invite you back to the Springs goes, we do have some truly magnificent hot springs continually gifting us with deep-earth warmth and wisdom, and we are calling for more humans to regularly soak in them– to sigh and sing with them, to receive their support, to resource, remember and be in reciprocity with them. Maybe this call is for you...? If regular soaking in rustic and pristine geothermal hot springs tubs embedded in nature is your thing, or (and especially) if you know of someone who could be powerfully benefitted by such a practice, we'd like to invite you to our word-of-mouth Aletheia 'Tub Club.'
Basically, these waters are a gift to us all, and it's our job to offer that healing and supportive gift to those who love it and those who might need it most. The springs also need support to continue to freely offer this gift. Folks in our 'tub club' offer donations back to the project in support of all that we do and all we are working towards. Some folks also contribute more specifically to support those with fewer means or those coming to simply receive. The invitation to simply receive is especially for our BIPOC or LGBTQIA friends, communitarians, activists, artists, caregivers, farmers, change-makers, parents and organizers. How Aletheia's 'Tub Club' works is, after an initial orientation, we usually reserve a two or three-hour private time block for you on any given day of the week. We ask for ideally one or more days' notice ahead of time to book. Please get in touch with us directly if you'd like to learn more!
Thank you for receiving this last chapter in our water-land-community love story, and for being with us! We welcome further questions and ideas, and, we'll be keeping you in the loop as things continue to unfold!
Giving thanks, warmth & deep affection,