New hotel: Facet on a gem

July 17, 2013 09:43 am

The Smith River Rancheria deserves congratulations for another success this week with the grand opening of Howonquet Lodge, the latest addition to the Lucky 7 Casino complex along Highway 101 in Smith River.  

The 71-room hotel joins the casino, full-service restaurant and conference hall at the main site, along with the fuel mart/convenience store, and community hall nearby. The entire complex is a far cry from what started as a few dozen slot machines in a double-wide trailer in 1996.

Combined with the location almost within the Redwood National and State Park and only steps from the ocean, the tribe can accurately boast of “a vacation paradise on America’s Wild Rivers Coast.”

All of that just speaks to the facilities for the general public. The United Indian Health Service, tribal housing, day care center, a wastewater system, a transportation plan, scholarships, and an RV park in the works — they are all tangible additions to what the tribal council calls “our vision of building a healthy, self-reliant community.”

While the tribal enrollment is only 1,440 people, the economic impact extends much further. Total annual employment is now about 200 people at the rancheria, with a total annual payroll of more than $4 million.

The new hotel is just an additional facet on a gem that is already shining in our community. The rancheria leadership and the tribal membership can be proud of what they have accomplished.