AUBURN — Last July, Ashley Goddard booked her August 2016 dream wedding at Lost Valley.

Three weeks ago, she discovered by happenstance that her venue had been sold. The gazebo she’d wanted was gone. The decorations she’d planned on were gone. She was told the charges might be different.

And so she began a campaign to get her deposit back, to find a new spot to say, “I do,” and to alert other brides that their Lost Valley wedding may not be as they’d planned. 

“I don’t want anybody else to be in the same situation I am,” she said. “Wedding planning is stressful as it is, and the biggest piece of the puzzle now has kind of been ripped underneath from me.”

At one point this week, the disagreement between Goddard and new Lost Valley owner Scott Shanaman became so heated that she took her frustrations public, and he threatened to withhold the $500 deposit she’d given Lost Valley last summer, even though he acknowledged that she was owed the money.

“She has just taken to bashing us on Facebook and now calling the newspaper, which is just out of hand,” Shanaman said Thursday. “Her chances of getting her deposit back are diminishing constantly with everything like this that she does.”

Shanaman quickly changed his mind.

About 30 minutes later, a woman who identified herself as Lost Valley’s marketing and public relations manager reached out to Goddard over Facebook and said the owners were willing to refund her money.

Goddard and her fiance, Jeff Slefinger, booked Lost Valley last July when it was owned by Connie King and Lincoln Hayes. The Buxton couple liked the quoted price and the location — close to restaurants and the balloon festival scheduled for Lewiston-Auburn that weekend. They thought Lost Valley would be perfect for their 118-person wedding.

They gave King a $500 deposit. King gave them a receipt.

As Goddard planned the event, she kept in touch with King to verify details and pose questions. A few weeks ago, she emailed King to ask about the seating chart. The email bounced back as invalid.

Figuring King had a new email address, Goddard went to Lost Valley’s website. The site had changed, she said, with all mention of weddings erased. When she called Lost Valley, she was told King wasn’t the owner anymore.

“I was almost sick to my stomach,” Goddard said. “I hadn’t heard anything from Connie and no one had been in contact with me to tell me there was someone else I was supposed to be in contact with.”

She spoke to a Lost Valley manager who agreed to meet with her and her fiance at the office. But on the day of the appointment, he didn’t show.

Goddard said she followed up with a series of phone calls, voice mails and emails — some were not returned by Lost Valley, others were returned but left Goddard feeling even more unsettled.  

She’d planned to be married in front of Lost Valley’s gazebo, but she learned it had been removed because it was falling apart. She asked whether the new owners planned to change the pricing, she said, and was told they wouldn’t be able to discuss that until April, after peak ski season. 

Goddard requested that her deposit be returned. She said she was told she’d have to track down Lost Valley’s former owners for that.

Goddard did, reaching out to King on Facebook. King replied, saying she’d retired and was in Florida; she referred Goddard back to Lost Valley.

The next day, Goddard told King she’d contacted lawyers and local media. In her response, King urged Goddard not to panic. 

“The new owners are honoring everything we agreed to, including pricing,” King wrote. “Only (change) is the gazebo. I’m sure they have a backup plan.” 

A Sun Journal voice mail message for King was not returned Thursday.

Shanaman, reached by phone Thursday, confirmed that his manager did not meet Goddard and her fiance as promised. He said he’d apologized and offered to look into the situation and get back to Goddard, but she didn’t give him a chance to do that. He said his secretary spoke to Goddard on the phone this week and everything seemed fine, until suddenly Goddard wanted her deposit back, started “bashing” Lost Valley on Facebook and was threatening legal action.

After that, he said, he wasn’t inclined to call her back.

Goddard shared a copy of her Facebook post in which she described the venue situation and vented her frustration.

“I was more frustrated with the situation but was never bad mouthing him as a owner,” she said in an email Thursday.

Goddard said she planned to take the refund and cancel her booking, even though she hasn’t been able to find another venue, with fewer than seven months before her wedding.

“It’s disappointing that things ended this way because of how excited we were last year when we booked with Lost Valley,” she said. “But now, after everything that has happened, I don’t feel comfortable with them being in control of the biggest day of our lives.”

She hopes other Lost Valley brides and grooms will hear about her experience and contact the resort to make sure their plans are still set.

Shanaman wants to hear from them.

“We’re asking everyone that has a wedding booked — because of the new ownership, because things are different here — to come and talk to us, so we can make sure we’re all on the same page,” he said. “People have to realize they’re dealing with a completely different company.”

Shanaman said the gazebo was removed because it was rotten and unsafe, but Lost Valley can look into other options, including renting something similar. He said the layout in the lodge has changed and people can decorate it themselves. 

Lost Valley will honor the prices that were quoted, he said. If the new Lost Valley isn’t acceptable, he’s willing to give people their deposits back.  

“They will get it back from us and I will have to chase the old owners,” he said.

Shanaman didn’t know how many weddings were booked for this year. He said he’ll accommodate them all — whatever the number — but he’s not sure he’ll accept new bookings.

“If this is what I have to deal with in the wedding world, then the answer will be no,” he said.

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