This is a copy of the latest of the direct emails sent out to SPA members. If you want to be on that receiving list, send a request to: email@example.com
In this communication I will cover a few elements (Camping permits; Fees; Off Road Use; Maintenance of Tubs and Infrastructure) of the Saline Valley Warm Springs Management Plan/EIS in the hopes of unraveling some of the nuances of the alternatives and developing a position statement that might help guide SPA members toward making constructive comments with a unified voice. I want to qualify this communication by saying that these are my personal thoughts as a 34-year member of the Saline community, and do not reflect an official SPA position. As SPA works toward crafting a position paper, your comments and feedback on these discussions are a valuable asset that will allow SPA to speak for you!
Once again, the full set of elements and alternatives along with opportunity to comment can be found at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=297&projectID=39438&documentID=56823 and I am including a PDF file of the alternatives as an attachment to this email.
In my opinion, this is a no-brainer. Permits have never been required, and should not be required, given the relatively sparse use of the springs. Even on holiday weekends when visitor usage is high, there is plenty of room to camp. No Permit Required is included in the No Action, Minimum Action, and Community Engagement Alternatives. It seems unlikely that the Recreational Management or Restoration Alternatives are necessary or likely to be implemented. I strongly suggest that rather than just specifying: TAKE NO ACTION, include some comments as to why taking no action is the proper choice. (Across the board, I would recommend this for every element that warrants NO ACTION: express your reasoning; rationale carries more weight.)
This applies to entrance fees, not camping fees. There are no options amongst the Alternatives. This is also a requirement that has never been enforced. Quoting a recent communication from the Park Service:
All visitors coming into the park to recreate are required to pay an entrance fee. The current fee is $20 for 7 days or an annual pass is $40 for unlimited entries. A senior lifetime pass is available or citizens 62 years or older for $10. An interagency pass will let you into all federal fee areas for $80 per year.
This is not a new requirement, thus we would encourage all Saline Valley users to purchase the pass of their choice before coming to the park. Some people buy one through the mail, others purchase an interagency pass in Lone Pine at the Interagency Visitor Center. If purchased within the park, Death Valley keeps most of the fees collected to use on projects that benefit visitors. Passes can be purchased at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Scotty's Castle, Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station, or any of the automated fee machines throughout the park.
In a subsequent e-mail, the Park conceded that passes cannot be purchased at the Interagency Center in Lone Pine.
Off Road Use
Prohibited, prohibited, prohibited, prohibited. Looks like the Community Engagement Alternative is the most reasonable of all alternatives. Nothing new here, and voluntary compliance reduces long-term impact which reduces the Park's need to patrol and enforce. Some folks still need to be educated, it seems.
Maintenance of Tubs and Infrastructure
Another easy one. Volunteer efforts have always been the mainstay of the Warm Springs area and should continue, as the Visitor-community does a better job than any government agency could do at no cost to the public beyond voluntary contributions. NO ACTION required here.
I did ask for clarification as to what was meant by: "All uses would have direct sources." This simply means that each use of the water (i.e., each soaking pool, shower, dishwashing station) takes its water directly from a source, rather than using a flow-through where water from the sink might feed a soaking tub or the like. Curious that this verbiage is not found in NO ACTION, but is included in other Alternatives, when in fact, it is, and always has been, the conventional practice.
Please remember to give us your feedback as we work toward the Position Paper many of you have asked about. We are continuing to pursue a 30-day extension on the comment period, but must proceed currently on the assumption that such a paper should be drawn up in the next few weeks for member review. If we speak with one voice, our voice will carry further!
Stay tuned, more to come.