Times are changing 'up the Greensprings'

| Daily TidingsDiarmuid McGuire, left, is the owner of the Greensprings Inn. He and his son Padraic, right, show where new cabins will be built near the existing Inn.

Residents of the Greensprings fancy that life moves pretty slow in this mountain community of about 500 people some 2,000 vertical feet above, and 16 miles southeast of Ashland. But like in all of Southern Oregon, life "up the Greensprings," as the locals like to call it, is changing.

A 30-minute drive from Ashland, the closest incorporated city and shopping opportunity, change is happening in the Greensprings as well.

Like Ashland, the Greensprings' school population is decreasing. There were more than 40 students enrolled at the Pinehurst School in 1996 &

the one-building campus that serves area students until eighth grade. Last year there were 23 students, and four graduated from the eighth grade. Traffic is increasing in the Greensprings. According to one local man, he now sees an average of 10 cars on a given summer Saturday afternoon compared to half that number in the past.

Unlike the rest of Jackson County, locals say the demographics have not shifted much recently. Ron Schaaf, a long-time resident who came from Ashland, said the Greensprings still plays host to an even mix of libertarians and liberals.

"We've got the conservative right and the liberal left," he said. "And we're all good friends. Because of the winter and the distance to town, we're all in this together."

Schaaf, who is on the Pinehurst School Board and a volunteer with the Greensprings Fire and Rescue department, is sometimes referred to as the mayor of the Greensprings. He said it's an odd moniker from a community that, "wants no layers of government." So anti-establishment is the Greensprings that when the volunteer fire department started up in 2005, it had to promise never to become a cause for new taxes, and instead relies solely on donations, Schaaf said.

Business in the Grensprings

Like in all communities, businesses sometimes ebb and flow with the times.

Last year there were three restaurants in the area: the Greensprings Inn, a mom and pop mountain-version of a diner that served as the local hang-out and gossip shop; the Pinehurst Inn, an upscale, fine-dining experience geared towards vacationers and out-and-about Ashlanders; and the Camper's Cove restaurant, a sleepy bar and breakfast joint with a bad reputation off the main drag towards the Dead Indian Plateau. They were the only three store-front businesses in the area.

Today, all three hold different fates. One is closed and another is scheduled to follow suit. The third has been added to a recently-renovated area resort that has Greensprings residents thinking about the effects of increased visitors to a community that boasts of its seclusion and slow pace of life.

The Greensprings Inn

The most significant change to the locals was the recent closure of the Greensprings Inn. Open since 1982, it shut down this spring when the current owners couldn't pay their bills.

Described as the hub of the community, the Inn was the place locals would trade community news over an omelet, a slice of pie or a beer. A log cabin, with a wrap-around porch sits at the gateway of the community, just east of the 4,000-foot apex of Greensprings Summit pass.

"It's the heart of the community," Ron Schaaf said of the Inn.

Schaaf seems to be involved in every issue affecting the Greensprings. He loaned the last Inn owners their start-up money.

"People don't bump into each other the way they used to," Schaaf said, lamenting the loss of the Inn. "It was like the trading post. It was where all the news was distributed."

Diarmuid McGuire, another of the elder statesmen and community organizers of the Greensprings, ran the Inn from 1994 until 2005, when his children were grown and he and his wife Pam Marsh were ready to move into town. Adam and Jen Henor leased the business from him in 2005 and defaulted on their business loan two years later.

"We're looking for someone to lease the business and re-open it," he said, in the parking lot of the vacant restaurant on Friday. "We did it for 16 years and it was wonderful, but it's time for someone else to do it."

Some Greensprings residents say it was the personality of the last owners, and not a lack of a customer base, that did the in the Inn. McGuire is building 15, 400 to 600-square-foot rental cabins behind the existing 8-room Inn to make sure.

"I believe in the Greensprings," he said. "I'm putting my money into the ground."

The Pinehurst Inn

Seven miles east of the Greensprings Inn on Highway 66, what locals call the Greensprings Highway, past a state park marking the route of the old Applegate Trail, sits the Pinehurst Inn. Built in the 1920's to serve the loggers who trucked trees out of the timber-rich Cascade Mountains, it became the area's first bed and breakfast in 1985 when Don Jean Rowlett bought it.

In addition to the Pinehurst Inn, the Rowletts owned the Box R Ranch, a 1,500-acre turn-of-the-century homestead they turned into a tourist destination in the early 1970's. McGuire and his family vacationed for years at the Box R Ranch before relocating from Palo Alto to run the other inn up the Greensprings. He called Don Rowlett one of the "patriarchs" of the Greensprings.

On Friday Rowlett said the restaurant at the Pinehurst Inn, like the Greensprings Inn, will be closing down this fall.

"It didn't achieve enough business to warrant the efforts involved," he said, noting that rooms will still be available for rent. Also a rancher, Rowlett, though in his upper 70's, still dresses the part in jeans and a cowboy hat. "Seasonality has a lot to do with restaurants."

Seasonality has a lot to do with the Greensprings in general. Cooler than Ashland in the summer, it is actually clearer than town is in the winter because it is above the inversion layer of clouds. It is also snowier. Snowpack piles up six feet high some years on the breakdown lanes of the Greensprings Highway, a guardrail-less, winding, two-lane road that snakes through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. It's not a tourist-friendly drive in December and January.

"People are afraid to drive that road in the winter," said Ira Krizo, a chef trained in New York City and France, who tried to transform the Inn from a family-style barbecue restaurant to a fine dining destination. Entrees range from $20 to $30 and all the food is cooked from scratch.

"Both us and the Greensprings Inn down the road are pretty much the centers of the community," Krizo said. "If it wasn't for Hyatt Lake resort staying open, there wouldn't be anything for people up here."

Hyatt Lake Resort

Last August Bob McNeely, who owns a beach front resort in Brookings, bought the old Hyatt Lake Resort. His intention was to build 50 additional guest cabins, renovate the dilapidated, old restaurant and turn the summer boat launch and tackle shop into a year-round destination. Stocked with trout and often filled with jet skiers and power boats, the 11-acre, man-made Hyatt Lake has traditionally been a popular summer attraction. Any substantial wintertime activity in the Greensprings would be a new phenomenon.

After its first operational summer, the Hyatt Lake Resort has given locals another place to eat, added jobs to the local economy and become one of the topic de jour up the Greensprings.

"The giant news on the mountain is the upgrading of the Cove and the Hyatt Lake Resort," Rowlett said. "That's the biggest event in the whole Greensprings area."

Rowlett, a big supporter of the Hyatt Lake Lodge's potential, said McNeely "recognized some opportunities up on the lake and proceeded to redevelop the resort and the Cove. He's done a magnificent job." —

Others worry that the resort could alter the lifestyle of the Greensprings.

"We ride our bikes near Hyatt Lake," Schaaf said, noting that he and his family rarely come this way these days and haven't eaten at the Cove, even since the Greensprings Inn closed. "We could ride up on a weekday and not see any cars."

His friend Cam Patterson said, "If it ever turned into Yosemite Valley up here, I would be out of here in a minute."

Debbie Evans, Schaff's wife, added, "We would like it not to get to that. We live up here for a reason."

McGuire, whose own idea for cabins at the Greensprings Inn is not unlike McNeely's business model at Hyatt Lake, pointed out that activity is good for the Greensprings economy.

"We need a critical mass of activity on this mountain to have any business," he said. "All ships rise on a rising tide."

Share This Story