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Sheep Creek Lodge to reopen after new buyers fix water problems

Sean Doogan
Sheep Creek Lodge is reopening after 2 years of being closed. September 1, 2014 is the target date to open and will feature a Labor Day barbeque. Courtesy Sheep Creek Lodge

An Alaska family said it is ready to reopen the Sheep Creek Lodge, at Mile 88 of the Parks Highway, after buying the property this summer.

The lodge, which was shut down by previous owners Fred and Phenie Miller because of ongoing issues with the water well, is set to reopen Sept. 1, according to Jessi Zimmerly, whose family bought the property in July.

"We plan to have a grand opening and Labor Day barbecue," Zimmerly said.

Zimmerly, 24, her mother, 47-year-old Melinda Crawford, and a handful of other family members have quit their Anchorage jobs to run the lodge, about an hour and a half north of Anchorage in the Susitna Valley. The 10,000-square-foot lodge includes a full restaurant, bar, package liquor store and four rooms. In addition, the property has nine cabins for rent and hosts a large RV/camping area. It is near popular salmon streams, like Sheep, Willow and Montana creeks, and before its closure in 2012 was a popular pit stop for fishermen and weary travelers.

In April 2012, the former owners shut down the lodge over problems with a well susceptible to contamination -- problems Zimmerly said have been fixed.

"We have drilled a new well and have had it tested by the state," Zimmerly said.

Zimmerly, a former medical assistant, and her mother, a former nurse at Alaska Regional Hospital, have moved their family to the site, next to the Parks Highway and on the shores of Sheep Creek. Other family members have moved there as well. A brother is working on the facilities, and Crawford's boyfriend is the lodge's new chef.

"We are committed to this and have even named our new business All-In LLC," Zimmerly said.

Zimmerly said that, unlike most Alaska lodges around, the new Sheep Creek Lodge will be a year-round operation. It is close to miles of trails that stretch north toward the Alaska Range

"We are really focused on the winter and snowmachining," Zimmerly said, adding that she expects the lodge to be utilized for events and weddings as well.

Contact Sean Doogan at sean@alaskadispatch.com.