Friends of Cougar

Meeting with Mary Allison

Cougar Hot Springs: Paradise Promised


By Greg Thorne - Thursday 4/7/05 4:00pm

Maria Jensen and I met with McKenzie River District Ranger Mary Allison for 40 minutes this afternoon. Before we began she insisted that the agreement had already been made with Hoodoo. Still, we pleaded our case for Friends of Cougar managing the Hot Springs. I emphasized that we can manage it better than Hoodoo, and not raise the fee from $3 to $5, making it more affordable for the public. I stressed that low income individuals and families will be hurt by the increase in the fee. As a public resource, if it can be managed inexpensively, it should be affordable to all people. She did not seem concerned.

It seemed what was important to the District Ranger was that the FS already had worked with Hoodoo and she tried to get us "onboard" with her hope and expectation that Hoodoo would do a fine job of managing it this year. Although it's a trial-basis, she said that they had committed to Hoodoo that they would not open it up to other providers at the end of the year if both the FS and Hoodoo feel that the contract with Hoodoo managing in 2005 went well. In other words, only if either the FS or Hoodoo have a problem with the arrangement in 2005, will it not automatically continue.

Only in 4-5 years would other contractors be allowed to bid on this, and at that time it would probably be a package that would include far more than Cougar. It would be all the campgrounds in the District and possibly more outside the District.

Hoodoo will have annual passes, but not honor the annual NW Forest Pass. The Forest Service's "Terwilliger"- specific annual passes $30 are still on sale at the Forest Service office, but not at Harbick's. They will either sell out, or be discontinued May 12. The money from those passes goes to the Forest Service, not Hoodoo. Starting May 12, Hoodoo will sell their own $50 annual pass for Cougar.

Because it says on the back of the annual NW Forest Pass that Terwilliger is included, I think you could argue that your existing NW Forest pass allows you to visit Cougar. There is some controversy over this. Mary Allison said they'd honor the NW Forest Pass after May 12 in our meeting, but Hoodoo says on their web site that they won't.

Children 6-15 will no longer be free. They are going back to only under-6 being free. So Hoodoo will charge kids 6 and above the full $5.

The District Ranger was also offended by the language on the Hoodoo site and asked Chuck to take down the page. It's still up at this hour. She also asked me to remove her email from the Friends of Cougar site. I asked how many emails she had received. She said about 20. I did not agree to do so.

She insisted there will not be a juice bar, and no changes will be made that negatively impact the natural environment at the hot springs. Any minor changes, such as cement would be subject to an environmental review. Maria actually complained that the pools are "so hard to clean" and seemed to suggest they could use some cement or something. Horrified, I quickly changed the subject back to the matter at hand.

The meeting was amicable, but aside from gaining more information, we were unable to effect meaningful change, because, whether signed or unsigned, she reiterated that they already had an agreement with Hoodoo.

In fact, largely because of this and that she didn't have time today, she wasn't going to meet with us, but we showed up anyway and she graciously did.

My feelings haven't really changed.

Interestingly tho, I see a major vulnerability for Hoodoo. The contract as I understand it commits them to 8-10 hours of presence each weekday and 12-14 daily on weekends From May 12 through September 20. Of course, what that effectively means 8 hours weekdays and 12 on the weekend. 64 hours per week. At minimum wage, they will have to pay someone (when you include employer-side FICA) about $500 per week. If attendance is weak, they will lose money with this arrangement.

Hoodoo is planning to begin managing the Hot Springs May 12.

Thank you to everyone who spoke for all of us in contacting the Forest Service. This may be just the beginning of building the trust the Forest Service needs to eventually realize it's best to have Cougar Hot Springs managed by the Friends of Cougar.




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