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: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this communication I will cover a few elements (Continued modifications; clothing optional recreation; NPS staffing; VIP/Camp hosts) 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.
Continued modifications (from users/volunteers)
According to the 2002 General Management Plan, no expansion related to tubs is allowed and the Upper Warm Springs are to remain undeveloped. These are the options specified in the Minimum Action, Community Engagement, and Recreation Management Alternatives, and are likely to remain in place in the new management plan, unless the No Action or Restoration Alternatives are selected, which seems unlikely. I believe we might seek to modify the alternatives by suggesting that Modifications be allowed upon review and approval by the Park Service. Such submissions and requests might be facilitated through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a Saline user group (such as SPA?), which is a topic for another day.
Clothing Optional Recreation
This is a long standing and well cherished practice at the springs, and I do not believe we are in any danger of losing this freedom. In a conversation I had with a former Head Ranger, I was told frankly that the NPS has no particular problem with this freedom, and it is not on their radar as a significant issue. The NPS enforces local laws, and there is no county or state ordinance against this clothing optional practice. Voluntary restrictions on nudity at certain times of year to respect Timbisha Shoshone tribal use is suggested under the Community Engagement Alternative, and I believe the Park is more or less required to include this in the alternatives given their partnership with the tribe. The reality is, no members of the Tribe have really expressed any interest in using the springs, and in my personal opinion, their presence is unlikely in the future. I recommend the Minimum Action Alternative
NPS Staffing/Law Enforcement
Like it or not, the Springs is part of the National Park, and the presence of Rangers is a part of the landscape. The Minimum Action Alternative would be my vote, as it has been continually demonstrated that large holiday weekends, such as the recent President's Day, prove that the Saline Community is perfectly capable of maintaining good order without law enforcement presence. I personally would suggest we might make the suggestion to the park that Park personnel be clearly identified when in the valley. Respect earns respect.
VIP/Camp hosts; VIP = Volunteer in Park.
The camp benefits from having a full time steward present. This is something that should be maintained. I am in favor of the current practice of a full-time host at the Lower Springs and a seasonal host at the Palm Spring. Whether these positions should be permanently assigned or given on a rotating basis is a reasonable question that many have raised. In time, the current situation is bound to change, and that may be a reasonable time to suggest a new policy of having a rotating host at the Lower Springs, wherein volunteers familiar with the springs come and serve the springs and community for a month or months at a time, without establishing a long-term residency. I believe we would have no problem establishing a bank of likely volunteers. In such a case, I would suggest that a trailer supplied by the Park Service be made available to the Volunteer. It has been suggested by some, that a clearly defined list of duties and responsibilities be designed for such volunteers.
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.