Friends of Cougar
Analysis and Solutions
Cougar Hot Springs: Today
By Greg Thorne Friday 4/8/05 10:30am:
I think the next step is to involve Congressman Peter DeFazio. The Forest Service is being stubbornly wasteful. They're content with raising the fee from $3 to $5. If they had Friends of Cougar manage the Springs instead of Hoodoo, such an increase would be unnecessary. Hoodoo requires such a fee increase to afford to hire employees to manage the Springs, but a plan that involves volunteerism from the Friends of Cougar would save visitors thousands of dollars and add thousands of dollars in funding for the Forest Service each year. I will write to him.
District Ranger Mary Allison keeps insisting that there will be no change at Cougar, just more presence. Why does she continually overlook the biggest, most obvious immediate change? The fee is going up from $3 to $5, nearly doubling.
This will cost visitors, many of them low income and families, collectively thousands of dollars. Assuming 3,000 visitors during the remainder of this year, that's $6,000 in excess charges. And that cost doesn't include the disappointment for 2,000 visitors (my estimate) who simply won't come because it's too expensive for them. Meanwhile the Forest Service will get virtually nothing from Hoodoo. If the Friends of Cougar were managing in place of Hoodoo the remainder of the year and $1 of the $3 fee when to FS, that would provide them with $5,000 for the local District budget. But with the Hoodoo plan, the Forest Service has wasted this money and further eroded their good will with the public.
Then, if all goes "satisfactorily" Hoodoo has been promised a continuation for 4-5 years. That's an additional loss for people. Assuming 5,000 visitors per year, they're paying and extra $10,000 per year. A "better" experience? "Cleaner and safer [than it is now] " as Mary insists. I don't think so. Everyone I've talked to says the Hot Springs are already clean and safe. Are you willing to pay $2 more per person for the illusion of "cleaner and safer?"
The FS hasn't been taking out the trash regularly, volunteers have been picking up the slack -- taking out the trash and have kept Cougar as clean as it has been historically. We haven't missed having the FS in the parking lot. Volunteer Lionel has been doing a better job policing the parking lot than the Forest Service ever did.
Last Summer with the FS having 9 employees: 25+ break-ins that smashed car windows. Since then, with Lionel watching the parking lot: 0 break-ins.
Volunteers if given the approval to manage Cougar could do a far better job of keeping it clean than the FS has been. We're witnessing how much volunteers will do when they're not asked to do anything, and they're not even listened to. Imagine how much cooperation we'd have from volunteers if they felt it was up to them.
And how many people per year will not be able to afford to come to Cougar at $5 who would come at $3? I estimate 3,500 visitors will not come to Cougar annually simply due to the fee increase.
The only other options we've thought of so far are:
1. Let Hoodoo fail (or succeed).
2. See if we can arrange for Friends of Cougar to be a Hoodoo subcontractor. We'd manage the Springs and report to Hoodoo instead of reporting to the Forest Service.
Now that would be pretty funny. A layer of private company that does nothing but get paid to deal with the Forest Service - what is supposed to be a public agency. An agency that keeps saying it wants to hear from the public. But doesn't listen. I guess that's why lobbyists are so well funded. It's not government of the people, by the people, for the people. It's government of the government, by the government, for the government.
The District Ranger asked me to remove her email address from our website because she was getting too many email msgs from Friends of Cougar. I asked her how many she had received. She said about 20. If she has a problem with getting 20 emails about this matter, that is very telling. She also complained that some of them were very long.
3. Have Friends of Cougar become a land trust organization to take ownership of the Hot Springs to protect it for generations, and in the process giving the Forest Service what they seem to want: relief from the headaches and cost of managing it.
In any event, because Mary Allison insisted there would be no changes to Cougar Hot Springs that would impact the clothing-optional nature or the environment, perhaps I'll write up a long-term contract to that effect and ask them to agree in writing.
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