Viewpoint: Honoring the legacy of Holland Lake lodge
I started working at Holland Lake Lodge in 1999 and I loved it so much that, in 2002, I purchased it from the folks I worked for. Since that time, my investment and ties to the lodge and the community have only grown.
I’ve spent more than half my life here, hosting visitors from dozens of countries and every state. I’ve met thousands of Montanans whose families have been coming to the lodge for generations. In that time, I have worn every hat possible, cooked countless meals in the restaurant, shaken hundreds of cocktails at our 8-seat bar, and welcomed thousands of guests. I’ve played wedding coordinator to over three hundred wedding couples, the most memorable guest being Brutus, an 800lb Grizzly Bear.
I have not taken my time as the gatekeeper of this 100-year-old lodge for granted. This is the Montana I love, with rustic charm and million-dollar views that wow each guest. I know these are many of the same values shared by my neighbors. I refuse to risk that falling into the hands of a bad steward.
Like many similar recreational facilities on federal land in the United States, the Lodge operates under a United States Forest Service (USFS) special use permit. This permit allows a privately owned, for-profit business, whose purpose is to sell recreation-style products to the public, to operate on federal land. It has allowed me to make a living, just as similar permits have enabled thousands of small recreational businesses to do the same. We preserve the natural environment for public benefit rather than a multimillionaire seeking to use it as a second home and exclude it from others.
I have long considered making improvements to this business, as I currently utilize only a fraction of what my permit allows; an expansion was planned but never executed. However, I decided the lodge and its legacy are best served with investments beyond my capacity by someone who shares my Montana values and vision.
POWDR is a company that was familiar with and embraced the process of making necessary improvements to the Lodge to protect the environment. They have an excellent reputation regarding conservation, sustainability, and the responsible operation of recreation facilities.
They share an understanding that many come to the lodge for its quiet, subtle character and respect that its environment is serene and rural. They fell in love with the Lodge and vowed to restore it to its potential for future generations in a way that honors and respects its nearly 100-year history of welcoming next-door Montanans and guests from around the globe.
I am hopeful that our community will be supportive of the improvements we seek. To ensure that future generations can enjoy this special place in much the same way we do today, the Lodge needs substantial improvements and an operator that cares as much about land stewardship as I do.
POWDR plans to have year-round public access to lodging and food/beverages. It is their business to preserve the uniqueness of this experience, as they have done in areas where residents shared the same concerns we do.
Allowing the natural environment to suffer would diminish the lodge's allure and, therefore, the business advantage that the lodge presents. The USFS and POWDR are interested in ensuring local participation in development and welcome public suggestions to ensure the integrity of the lodge remains.
I urge you to do your research about the lodge to help us all plan for its future with intention. I have decided to pass the lodge to another steward, and I know that POWDR is the one my friends and neighbors will be proud to support.
Christian Wohlfeil is the owner and operator of Holland Lake Lodge