Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bagby Hot Springs: A letter to the Acting Ranger

[Addendum: Another excellent example of Forest Service approaches to nudity (even in verrrrrrrrrrry conservative Utah) can be seen with this official Forest Service sign on the Three Forks Trail to Diamond Hot Springs; which reads, in part "While nudity is not prohibited on Forest Service trails ... please use discretion."

Alison S. Nelson
Acting District Ranger
Clackamas River Ranger District
Estacada Ranger Station
595 NW Industrial Way
Estacada, OR 97023

Dear Ms. Nelson,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to the ideas presented to you by representatives of the nudist/naturist population. I would like to offer my own thoughts on the issue of nudity at Bagby Hot Springs and why I believe a nudity ban at the springs is shortsighted and not in keeping with what most visitors and citizens expect. I do not represent any particular niche of nudism . . . we are full of conservatives and liberals like any segment of society. What bonds us all together is our belief that nudity does not have to be considered shameful or connected with inappropriate behavior. It can be a beautiful way to experience nature and feel good about the body we were graced with.

I would hope that you will carefully examine the basis of the recently-enforced nudity ban in light of:

1. The original intent of the Forest Service Order, dating from 1992,
2. The tradition of clothing-optional soaking, and the acceptance by rangers during the entire time the Order was in place . . . and what caused the sudden re-interpretation of the Order,
3. Approaches by rangers to continue and allow traditional clothing-optional enjoyment of hot springs at other sites,
4. The almost universal tradition for enjoying hot springs sans clothing in both historical and contempory societies, and that
5. Discreet, simple nudity by respectful soakers is not made a scapegoat to solve a larger law-enforcement problem caused by an influx of partiers and troublemakers.

MH-215-20-92 seems to have been originally intended to apply to developed camp sites and has only been recently interpreted as applying to the area around Bagby Hot Springs as a 'developed recreation area'.

My reasoning for this analysis is:

1) The Title of the Order, "Camping, Parking, etc."

2) Para 1. which states "Parking or leaving a vehicle outside a parking space assigned to one's own camp site.

3) Para 2. "Possessing, parking or leaving more than two vehicles except motorcycles or bicycles per camp unit unless otherwise designated."

4) Para 4. "Being in the area between 10pm and 6am except a person who is camping or is visiting a person camping in the area.

Paragraph 3 is the item under contention as it Prohibits being "Publicly Nude", ostensibly within the context of the other three paragraphs, i.e., within a developed camping area. The original intent of this order was to control behavior within the limited scope of developed campgrounds and at the time of issue Bagby was not considered within the scope of the original intent.

Bagby Hot Springs are not campgrounds (developed or otherwise). There are campgrounds nearby but clearly separated by distance and sight from the hot springs site. Reaching the springs requires a reasonable-length hike, negating two of the prohibitions related to parking and vehicles associated with this Order . . . thereby leading me to further believe that the intent was not to regulate nudity at the springs.

Use of the words 'assigned' 'per camp unit' 'visiting' again imply a reservation-based activity like getting a campsite for the night rather than the more spontaneous activity of visiting the hot springs for a chance to soak. The major thrust of this Order is directed at developed camgrounds and I believe that it is improper to re-interpret the Order as applying to Bagby, which is not a campground within the spirit of the original order.

On those grounds I believe the status quo should be returned to cease application of the intent of the Order to apply to anything but developed camp sites.

That reasoning aside, Bagby has a long history of clothing-optional use, as the public is well-aware. Any search for information on the hot springs will return the clothing-optional nature of the springs. Visitors and hikers have ample notice and opportunity to make an informed decision.

Clothing-optional use of natural hot springs has a long and rich tradition . . . from Native Americans use as a neutral parrying ground to Eastern ritual on the sanctity of soaking. Soaking sans clothing has the practical aspect in that these communal waters . . . rich in minerals . . . are not contaminated by soils and detergents on bathing suits. The public seeks out these special places to relax and interact with nature . . . to leave the hubris of the city behind for a few hours.

Similar approaches to the use and control of natural hot springs take place at:

- Cougar (Terwilliger) Hot Springs, where clothing optional is the norm, is so signed, and under the control of Hoodoo Recreation Services for the McKenzie Ranger District. Cougar is 'developed' somewhat to the same extent of Bagby and also has developed campsites nearby,

- Mcreadie Hot Springs right by the highway is accepted as clothing-optional; as are numerous other hot springs located within the tolerant State of Oregon,

- Similar approaches are seen to the north in the State of Washington with Olympic Hot Springs on National Park lands signed as clothing-optional, and Baker Hot Springs within the Mt Baker National Forest traditionally clothing-optional.

From a personal and professional point of view of aiding the owner of Scenic Hot Springs near Stevens Pass in Washington, I can attest that the typical user of a clothing-optional hot spring is respectful, discreet and simply looking for a return to nature and relaxation for a short time from society. Problems only arise when civilization intrudes itself into the special nature of the hot spring in the form of large crowds, alcohol and parties that bring conservatism attacking the needful innocence of the soak. Native Americans knew this . . . Eastern tradition holds the hot spring in reverence. Clothing was never allowed to stain the magical powers of the hot spring. A soak any other way is considered sacrilegious by many.

Extending a 17 year old Forest Service order from controlling activities within developed campgrounds to Bagby Hot Springs in defiance to the original intent denies the tradition of the hot spring an essential and recognized character . . . the almost universally recognized clothing-optional nature of use . . . from Native Americans to present day citizens.


/and signed, mailed Sept 30th, 2009/

Related Posts with Thumbnails