Daniel Smiechowski outside the Jacumba Resort and Spa
Daniel Smiechowski outside the Jacumba Resort and Spa.

The east county Jacumba Resort and Spa has fallen victim to uncertain times. The coup de grâce appears to be the coronavirus.

Owned for many years by Dave Landman, an affable character who coincidentally owns most of Jacumba and about 800 acres east to Yuma, the spa is currently listed for sale by Coldwell Banker.

I arrived last month as a regular guest for athletic training. Over the years, I have made this place my health mecca in San Diego’s high desert. The spa has potential to thrive as a destination for health and fitness. Under bright blue skies, dry heat and stiff headwinds, it a paradise for devoted runners like me, and hopefully not a paradise lost.

There are rumors floating of potential buyers wanting to convert the spa into an assisted-living facility, and from my feedback the entire town would rebel against that.

Landman opened the resort in 2012. “It was tougher than I thought to run this business,” he told me, adding that his wife has health issues, so “it’s time to move on.”

What will happen to a town in disrepair — not to mention despair — without Landman is an open question.

Looking back on the town’s history, it was Interstate 8 that drove the proverbial nail in Jacumba’s coffin. Without the lifeline of Highway 80, Jacumba literally starved to death.

I still remember passing through this town on a Greyhound Bus in 1966 with my mother and father, leaving Milwaukee for our new home. These are melancholy memories from the distant past.

Robert Canande, a local resident for six years, stresses that “we have a lot of positives here.” A visitor from San Diego says he comes to relax and for the water — the hot natural mineral water touted as a health tonic.

With that said, I bid adieu to a remarkable man, an iconic spa, dedicated employees and the residents of a town clinging to life.

Daniel J. Smiechowski is a Bay Ho resident, prolific writer on education issues, and former candidate for San Diego Unified School District Board of Education and San Diego City Council. He grew up in Milwaukee.