A Natural Disater Feature – Written By Reilly Kneedler
Originally published in the July 27 issue of the Wenatchee World
PATEROS — According to Parker Barth, Alta Lake Golf Course is “the essence of a family run business.”
“We started off as a real mom and pop business,” he said. “Kids would change water, dad would mow greens and mom would watch the pro shop.”
Barth started out as one of those kids changing water, and today he owns the course, along with his father Don. In his tenure, he has seen a lot of progress and change, primarily the completion of a back nine in 1993 and the gradual addition of 20 more rooms to their small hotel adjacent to the course.
But last Thursday and Friday, his cherished business hit the single largest obstacle in its 40 years of existence: a firestorm.
“We were hit absolutely as hard as we could have been, like the whole area and community,” Barth said Saturday as he stood next to the pile of smoldering rubble that was once his pro shop. “Our pro shop is gone, our brand new golf carts are gone, any pictures or mementos we have ever collected are just gone.”
Yet even after the fire had passed, it left one more hidden surprise for the Barths.
“Our whole maintenance shop blew up,” Barth said. “We had a gas tank inside that exploded from the heat the day after the fire. Even worse, we had no idea it was going to happen, and were inside the shop just before that, looking for anything salvageable.”
The firestorm was an arm of the Carlton Complex fire that has taken North Central Washington in its grasp, destroying 52 homes in the Alta Lake area alone — and the majority of one golf course.
“(The day after the fire) we were kind of on our heels and caught off guard, just absorbing what was left and what happened,” Barth said.
But even after only a couple days of recuperating, Barth is determined to turn his misfortune around.
“As bad as the situation around us is, we are going to take the opportunity to make this a positive by building a better golf course facility and encouraging the rest of the community to do the same,” he said.
According to Barth, the first step is repairing the course itself. While the grass was largely untouched, the entire support and maintenance wing of the operation was devastated. To combat this major issue, he has trucked in large generators to power the irrigation system and ordered fleets of new carts and equipment.
These decisive forward actions may seem preemptive, but swift replacement of all of his previous equipment was Barth’s only course of action, especially considering that he will soon have the clientele to utilize it.
“Some of our customers have already said that they will come whenever we decide to open, regardless of the course conditions,” he said. “And 90 percent of our business comes from western Washington, so it’s a big sacrifice for them to come support us.”
Early in the stages of planning for the future, Barth already has a vision for his course.
“(My goal) is for people be able to pull into the park next year and see the new paint of the pro shop and the parking lot, to see new flower beds and to see welcome signs,” he said, “and as they drive around (the course) I hope they will be able to see that even though it may be burned in one area, there’s a brand new tree planted right over there.”
As a family, the Barths have decided postpone the re-opening for the day that the power comes back on, which could be awhile. But Barth believes that the breath of life he has received from his neighbors might be enough to help him through this hard time.
“We’ve just had such an outpouring of support from everyone,” he said. “So much of our positive attitude has just come from the strength of the community. My experience with people over the last 24 hours has been so positive and encouraging. It has definitely restored any doubt I ever had in people’s character or humanity.”