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Miracle Hot Springs Closure Amid Safety Concerns Ignites Community Outrage

Source: Miracle Hot Springs Conservancy

Park officials have temporarily closed the Miracle Hot Springs in California’s Sequoia National Forest after finding a body in one of the tubs. As expected, the action has caused widespread outrage.

The U.S. Forest Service said the latest body was found on February 17. The body was discovered in the same area where another body was found on October 17, 2022.

Closed Until A Sustainable Solution Suffices

Rangers say public health and safety concerns are the reasons for its closure and it will remain closed “until a sustainable long-term solution is reached.”

Source: Vince Vibe

But a group that wants to protect the hot spring says it has been used since 1000 BC, has healing powers, and doesn’t agree with the closure. They’re of the opinion that the spring is important to the local community.

Forest Service Actions Labelled ‘Ridiculous’

The president of the Miracle Hot Springs Conservancy, David Cartman thinks the Forest Service’s actions are ‘ridiculous’. He’s also tagged the safety concerns as ‘malarkey’.

Source: Twitter/WashTimes

He believes the hot springs are ‘a true treasure’ In his words, it has brought people together “through inspiring experiences in nature that improve liveability, health, and wellbeing.”

Hot Springs Closure Receives Mixed Reactions

Lately, some others in the group have written on social media that the recent death is just an excuse to stop people from using the hot springs, and they’re suspicious about the whole situation. The Kern River Hot Springs Angels, an affiliated group of volunteers, have urged people not to accept or obey the closure.

Source: Twitter/lohbrook

But some locals think the area isn’t safe anymore. Alfred Watson, a ranger for the Kern River district is in support of the decision. He mentioned that the Forest Service is supposed to be responsible for public safety.

Recurring Deaths A Cause For Concern

He expressed concern about having two deaths in such a small area within a short time, saying it’s alarming. He also mentioned that the local Forest Service hadn’t been told by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office about the exact reason for the death.

Source: Twitter/KGETnews

Carman believes that the government shouldn’t shut down the hot springs just because a few people didn’t follow safety rules and put themselves in danger or happened to pass away naturally there.

Blame Unsafe People

“Miracle Hot Springs is not a safety hazard. People are a safety hazard. Do we close the Kern River because people die? No. Do we close Lake Isabella because people die? No. Do we close highways because people die? No,” he added.

Source: Twitter/goridgecrest

Carman said that while creating a safe environment is important if people aren’t safe, there will be consequences. He stressed that the community shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of unsafe individuals.

Reason For Closure Properly Explained

Watson explained that the argument suggesting rivers or other water bodies aren’t closed for public safety reasons or in response to fatalities isn’t entirely accurate. He pointed out that the Kern River was closed to swimming by the County last year due to high flows.

Source: Twitter/visitsouthidaho

He added: “The U.S. Forest Service is charged with managing this land that is open for public use. The current tubs were built without notification or approval from the U.S. Forest Service.

Questioning The Safety Of Unauthorized Structures

He also asked if it would be fine to build a concrete structure in Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Central Park without permission from the managing agency if it posed risks to people’s lives.

Source: Twitter/ehab_elmezian

According to The Bakersfield Californian, authorities destroyed the hot spring tubs after the first death but rebuilt them in 2023.

Finding A Way Forward

Carman stated that the conservancy had an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service for the local community to maintain the hot springs and educate users. But he believes the agreement was violated.

Source: Twitter/TheDIRidgecrest

He maintained that the hot springs were as safe as possible without onsite management of people’s behavior. Watson mentioned that there had been numerous meetings over the past year-and-a-half to find a way forward in managing the popular area.

Could A Concessionaire Be The Way Forward?

He explained that the outcome of these meetings was an agreement to implement a long-term strategy. This includes the possibility of rebuilding the tubs under an approved plan and appointing a concessionaire or similar entity for oversight, cleaning, and fee collection.

Source: Twitter/traxplorio

He acknowledged that this process would take time but could address several critical issues. Watson mentioned that besides the deaths, there have been other problems like more trash and criminal activity due to increased use of the area.

Short Of Hands For Patrol

He underlined the need to address these issues before reopening and said, “Things need to change. “Watson has previously met with residents regarding Miracle and has talked to Chiprin about finding a way forward.

Source: Twitter/MontanaStandard

Both agree that having more patrols in the area would help. But Watson explained that the Forest Service doesn’t have enough staff to assign someone to patrol Miracle Hot Springs consistently.

Proposed Management Solutions For Hot Springs

He suggested that one of the best options they discussed is having Miracle Hot Springs managed by a concessionaire. This person would charge a fee, but in exchange, they would monitor and clean the hot springs and be present there around the clock.

Source: Twitter/lissa411

Chiprin agreed and suggested that the Kern River Hot Springs Angels or a similar non-profit entity could take on the role of concessionaire.

Improving Safety And Fees At The Springs

He explained that if they had someone monitoring the area, and they noticed someone too intoxicated to be there, they could ask them to leave. If they refused, they could contact law enforcement.

Source: Twitter/Rick Obst

Watson mentioned that they had already begun the process to designate Miracle Hot Springs as a “Fee Area.” He also said they needed to formally designate that area as a fee area internally.

Long-Term Solution In Progress, Timeline Uncertain

So, they were already taking steps to start that process because he believed it was a long-term solution. When he had spoken with many users, they were okay with paying a small fee as long as it ensured continued access to the springs.

Source: Gary Coronado

Sadly, it’s still not clear how much time it will take to enter such an agreement and reopen the hot springs with a concessionaire. “Could be a couple of years,” Watson said.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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