A Rocky Update

10.23.2009
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs (ID)

With all of the banter going on about the demise of the pools at Rocky Canyon Hot Springs in Idaho (note the picture currently at the top of this blog - it's Rocky Canyon), I thought I'd chime in.

Let me begin by stating that there are bigger threats to multiple hot springs to consider... all of this focus and attention on one hot springs is great. However, it's important to remember that we could lose a multitude of hot springs if Idaho remains as the only state not protected by the Roadless Rule. I'm not saying the fight to save the pools at Rocky are unimportant, just to keep the big picture in mind. Rocky will continue to exist even after the mortar pools are gone. Natural pools will return soon after.

I sifted through the 8 pages of comments in the Statesman article, checked out the KTVB story and have had conversations with a number of people involved in the situation. I've come to the following conclusions.

Points to Consider

1. Safety

Rocky has been around for a long time. The improved pools have only existed for a couple years. All of the incarnations of previously constructed natural pools presented stagnant water issues due to poor water circulation. The improved pools are well-designed, with plenty of water flow to flush and keep all of the pools continuously clean.

The old pools were often a sketchy soak... I once encountered 'swimming worms' in one of the upper pools. Yep. Rocky was actually on my 'soak with caution' list until the new pools went up in 2007.

The improved pools are also easier to reach. Where the previous pools required a steep, slick ascent up loose rocks and mud.

2. Pollution

Sadly, none of the comments I read addressed this issue. The previous pools at Rocky featured rock walls built in conjunction with the use of plastic tarps. Fungus eventually grows on the tarps and enters the water system where it can't be broken down. Fish eat it. Animals eat it. We eat it, recreate in it... you get the picture. The new pools do not make use of a single plastic tarp.

3. Tribal Concerns

We are all in this together. This is public land, where all of us are equally responsible for making sure abuse and misuse issues are addressed. Unfortunately, this issue will be ever-present in national forests, wilderness and hot springs - anywhere held as sacred. Abuse and misuse will exist regardless of if the pools are rock or mortar reinforced.

4. Other Offenders

I'm not trying to point fingers... but, there are quite a few other hot springs that have illegal, mortar reinforcements - just like Rocky that are even easier to access and have a TON of abuse/misuse problems. Like death. Vandalism. Gang fights... why the focus on Rocky Canyon with other blatant violators in the area? People have died at Skinnydipper. That's right, plural. The Forest Service didn't get sued, and it's way easier to get to.

5. Improved Pool Nuisance Issue

I'd say that the destruction left over from logging, illegal off-trail ORV vegetative destruction or incessant angler trash dumped on the riverbanks are all more of a nuisance than the appearance of a set of mortar reinforced pools.

Final Words

When this all started to go down, my first instinct was to support the return to natural built pools. However, the new pools are overall, better for the environment. Isn't that what is most important after all? Hopefully, some sort of a compromise can be reached. It seems wasteful for the forest service to announce that they will be demolishing the pools, but - afterwards, will consider re-building them.

8 comments:

voss_jamie said...

We were just there discussing the exact points you cover with several concerned citizens. We hear it scheduled for demolition tomorrow. What would happen if there just happened to be soakers there all day? We also heard people need to write editorials, make calls, and be the loud mouth that gets heard. If the court didn't rule it had to be torn out then what's the beef?

voss_jamie said...

Agreed on all fronts. Here are a few additonal arguing points:

3. Tribal Concerns

Within several of the Statesman comments, in both negative and positive ways, people hint at the abusive name dropping of tribes when used to give issues added momentum.
With respect, have the tribal leaders seen this place? Have they seen that the design fits within the landscape and promotes respect.
When people encounter something nice, they tend to keep it that way and vice versa.

4. Other Offenders

We have heard rumor that the only reason this particular hot spring is in question is due to a personal vendetta between the builder and someone in the office. What a shame if power is being abused to fulfill personal agendas.

5. Improved Pool Nuisance Issue

The only nuissance might be that soakers drive right by as the spring design blends extremely well into the landscape. How can the absence of blue tarps, beer bottles, cigarette butts, and worms be a problem?

6. Economics

Why spend money to tear something down and then spend more to rebuild it? Does the FS think they will be able to gain from this action? What about the economic support Crouch and the surrounding communities gain from thousands of hot spring's visitors driving through.
Do they want to see another commercial development? This is currently a free and easy way for families to get away from the stress the economy has caused while enjoying their forest.

7. Environmental Impact

Whatever is used to blow the pools apart will have a significant impact on the environment. Call the EPA! What about the bull trout? Has anyone addressed the issue of tarp caused fungus? And wouldn't we all love to see the return of the hot springs worm to this location?

8. Opportunity for Public Comment

The receptionist compared this to the demolition of Cole & Franklin elementary schools in Boise; that no one complained until it was too late and that plenty of time for public comment had been given. This is a false analogy for several reasons: the public was not informed on any scale comparable to that used by the Boise School District. No public meetings were held. No contact information was made available. The only press about Rocky Canyon in the last year was Channel Six inviting people to come enjoy the beauty and wonder, reiterating the need to take great care of such treasures. Now that we've all been invited, it's slated for destruction. I can't imagine the heart break my friends whose children are too young now will feel knowing their kids missed out. What a shame!

Now that the word is actually out, the FS says it's too late. It isn't too late! Call, email, and tell everyone you know to act now before Rocky Canyon is no more.

HSG, you've done a great job diseminating the crucial facts and asked the questions that must be answered? We can only hope answers are had before action is taken.

theHSG said...

Well put and well said! Thanks so much for chiming in.

You are exactly right, it still isn't too late!

molly said...

Here is another contact number. This is for one of the tribal administrators for Duck Valley. Part of the reasoning for dismantling the pools is that the FS has the legal right to protect areas that are culturally significant, and this means all hot springs on FS land. If we contact these Tribal leaders in a respectful way, maybe there can be some change to the decision, and hopefully better management and awareness of all hotsprings.


Cultural Resources: Ted Howard, Director, ext. 243 howard.ted@shopai.org thoward4shopai@yahoo.com P.O. Box 219
Owyhee, NV 89832
(208) 759-3100 (208) 759-3104 (fax)

Jolene said...

It is so refreshing to hear that some people truly appreciate the improvements made to Rocky Canyon. The builder's only intentions were to improve what nature had so generously given to us. ALL of us. Despite his efforts to clean the place up and provide a safe environment for many to enjoy, the forest service has managed to make more of a problem than existed to begin with. If the pool's existence is such a "nuisance", then why consider rebuilding something that already exists? Even with the demolition, people will return and rebuild in similar fashion to what was previously there (i.e. tarps, carpets, rubber mats and various other disease-inviting materials). It's only too late if the forest service decides it's too late and since they are the government, whatever they decide is law. Whatever happened to "public" land? This particular piece of it seems to belong to a select few. Is anyone willing to go to bat and stop them? I'm sure the forest service knows that short of a court order to stop it, demolition is in their power and they will flex their muscle to prove a point. What that point is, I'm not really sure. What does seem certain is that it serves very few and hurts many. Government at it's best.

Brandt Seefeldt said...

I agree that there is a bigger issue at hand than just Rocky Canyon yet, at this moment, Rocky is the one that is being focused on AND it should be...for the moment. The pools are beautiful, safe, and very very clean and in imminent danger of being destroyed.

In regards to the "use of drugs, alcohol, and sex", i have spoken with both the Valley county and Boise county sherrif's departments and there are NO, NONE, NADA arrests and/or complaints that have been been made at these springs.

In regards to the "tribal concerns", as John Erickson at the USFS has admitted, it was he that called the Indians to get them to support him. In short. there have been NO complaints that were made by the tribes.

As you can tell, i could go on and on as there is much more to say. I appreciate all that are talking, calling, Emailing, and petitioning. Thank you Thank you.

Please join the Facebook - Rocky Canyon Hotsprings - group and sign the petition to save these springs thru petitionspot.com (under saverockycanyonhotsprings).

THANK YOU!
Brandt Wood Seefeldt

Wilderness Fox said...

Halloween day we drove by twice, the place was deserted, but the pools are STILL there! Keep calling, writing, inquiring to local governments. Does anyone know what is happening?

molly said...

I was up Friday Night....No Parties...One Car...The only trash I could find was a pop can tab. Keep calling everyone...maybe the powers that be will take some time to listen and reconsider!This is such a peaceful,clean,safe place to relax. In this economy, I do not understand spending money to take a these springs apart.

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