Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Olympic Hot Springs May Be Razed to the Ground

The Final General Management Plan for Olympic National Park has been sent to those requesting a copy. Within that document are the recommendations for Olympic Hot Springs which under the draft plan, the desired outcome was to remove the user-built pools and revert the area to a 'natural' state. Hundreds of us wrote in to voice our thoughts on removing the soaking-opportunities from Olympic.

Olympic HS is one of the few remaining places we can enjoy a natural soaking experience in the State of Washington. It is (and was) also nude-friendly . . . something dear to our hearts since who wants to soak in a hot spring wearing a bathing suit.

My initial posting on Olympic Hot Springs and the Draft General Management Plan is here for background info. The Final General Management Plan is located here (large pdf downloads). Time to get out our pen and pencils (or keyboards) and complain about citizen input being dismissed.

Olympic National Park
Sue McGill, Superintendent
Olympic National Park
600 E. Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362

I received my copy of the Olympic National Park Final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Final GMP/EIS) in the mail today.

My interest was mainly focussed around the status envisioned for the natural hot springs, name Olympic Hot Springs. I was disappointed the final plan did not incorporate many of the salvaging ideas of the numerous commenters who took their valuable time to suggest ways to save this popular recreational resource.

I particularly take exception to the response of one published comment on the number of remaining natural hot spring resources remaining in the State of Washington . . . the response being that "Olympic Hot Springs is one of five functioning and accessible undeveloped hot springs in Washington. Four of these are on public land." That statement is COMPLETELY INACCURATE and tends to dillute the concerns of the original commenter and all others who made similar comments regarding the few undeveloped hot spring resources remaining in the State of Washington. You are in essence saying that we still have other options. That is not the case.

The hot springs resources potentially available are:

Olympic HS - Public (National Park), undeveloped, GMP/EIS envisions reverting,

Baker HS - Public (National Forest), undeveloped, problematical after Dec 2007 storms and landslide wiped out source and pool,

Wind River HS - Public (National Scenic Area), undeveloped, inaccessible because user must cross private property and No Trespassing is being enforced,

Gamma Hot Springs - Public (National Forest), undeveloped, no reasonable access (5 day backcountry hike),

Goldmyer HS - Private Fee, undeveloped, at present inaccessible due to snow and landslides above pools,

Scenic HS - Private, undeveloped and posted. Scenic is closed to the public.

The few other hot springs are either located in protected watersheds or have long been closed to the public (Ohanapenosh in Rainier NP, for example).

At present, only Olympic HS provides free or low cost public access for soaking. The others are marginalized due to a lack of access that leaves the general public without use. In a state surrounded by other states and provinces with a plethora of hot spring resources, Washington State will become barren. A sad state of affairs and one that does not seem to take into account the sentiment of the numerous commenters who made good arguments for retention of a resource and experience our neighboring states and provinces allow their residents.

As I (and many others) suggested during the draft phase, let's look into the possibility providing management and a modest fee to mitigate most if not all of the initially-stated reasons why reversion of Olympic Hot Springs was put into the GMP/EIS Plan in the first place. I see nothing in the final plan addressing those suggestions . . . suggestions that balance the need to protect the resource as well as keeping a traditional soaking resource. To me, as a citizen, I feel I have wasted my time with comments being dismissed out of hand.

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