Time to Reopen Ash Springs to Swimmers

The Lincoln Country Record reported that the popular swimming hole at the Ash Springs hot springs north of Alamo was shut down because of possible safety hazards.

Someone had noticed a child playing near a wall of rocks that looked as if it might collapse any moment and a local law enforcement officer brought it to the attention of the Bureau of Land Management.

Victoria Barr of the Caliente BLM office told the newspaper, “The structural instability as well as bank erosion and undercutting has caused a concern for public safety.”

The report said the repairs might move slowly due to the presence of two federally protected fish — the Pahranagat roundtail chub and the White River springfish.

“The amount of time needed for repairs is uncertain at this time, but Barr thinks it could be, ‘weeks at this point,’” the paper recounted. “She said their plan is to go through an official closure, and then start a collaborative planning process with the stakeholders and other federal agencies. ‘We anticipate public meetings,’ she said, and when those meetings get scheduled, will be able to inform the public.”

Lincoln County Commissioner Adam Katschke said, “We miss having it open, especially the businesses in Alamo and Pahranagat Valley.”

Those “weeks at this point” have turned into four and half years. That report was published in July 2013 and the ol’ swimming hole remains closed to this day, testimony to the glacial pace of the federal land agencies that control 85 percent of the land in Nevada.

The Las Vegas newspaper reported recently that a BLM official said the agency is nearly finished with a draft environmental assessment for the site, but she could not predict when it might be made available for public scrutiny. So, paperwork has been pushed, but no dirt.

Local residents are said to be anxious to see Ash Springs reopen, but are concerned about how well the BLM would manage the popular tourist site if and when it does.

The paper quoted nearby land owner Cody Whipple as saying he and others would like to see the site turned into a small resort with fees collected for upkeep and repairs. He said the BLM is not in the resort business.

A group called Friends of Pahranagat Valley has stated they would like to create some soaking pools next to a fenced natural area where swimming would be prohibited to protect native plants and fish. Their plans include changing rooms, boardwalks and trails, improved restrooms, a paved parking lot, picnic pavilions, a playground and courts for basketball and sand volleyball.

According to a Sunday editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper, the man in charge of the BLM, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, commented to the paper recently about the lengthy closure of Ash Springs, “This is exactly why the federal government needs to clean up our act. I’m not in the business of locking the public out.”

Zinke said Ash Springs will again be open and chided his agency for taking so long to resolve the issue. “We need to work with local communities and be better neighbors …” he was quoted as saying. “Local voices hadn’t been heard and people rightfully get upset when they get locked out.”

Perhaps a few of Zinke’s minions who would like to continue in their cushy, well-paid government jobs should pay heed to what the boss just said.

Whatever happens, it should be sooner rather than later for the benefit of the local residents and potential tourists who would help spur local businesses.

Frankly, the BLM should consider turning over the property to the state, county or a local entity — nonprofit or for-profit. — TM

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