From: Howard Goetz
To: Lynn Burditt, District Ranger
Dear Ms. Burditt,
Thanks for the packet of material on the recent history. I didn't expect so
I have soaked at Cougar about 15 times over the last 10 years, spending perhaps 40 hours there. I have talked with the past president of FOS for several hours. The only negative experience there was a group of drunken men around 1988. I have been a volunteer at Bagby Hot Springs since about 1991, and spend hundreds of hours on watch there dealing with all the same issues. Although I'm a Friends of Bagby (FOB) member, my views are not offical views endorsed by the organization.
Rather than a coherent letter, I will send some random thoughts based on the materials you sent, and on recent postings in the web at cougar.org and
The wishes of the local residents are being given too much weight in management decisions. The document "Terwilliger Hot Springs Case Study" on page 37 identifies 3 consitiuent groups, locals, FS, and the Friends of the Springs (FOS). In fact the group that should be given the greatest weight is the citizen visitors of the US, not even mentioned, who outnumber all other groups and who care deeply about the area. Most locals say they would not use Cougar under any circumstances. There are other instances in Oregon of private citizens coming to believe that local Federal lands are their property, and it should be your leadership role to give appropriate weight. This is difficult when the largest constituent group is scattered and unable to find out about pending decisions, while the locals are next door and able to attend every meeting in force.
The hot spring has been identified as a magnet for undesireable visitors. I
believe this is incorrect, and believe your documents support this. The spring is being used as a scapegoat by people with different lifestyles, who see nothing positive about it. The real problem is that rural and public lands
throughout the State have seen a big jump in crime and antisocial behavior,
because the perpetrators have been driven out of urban areas by increasingly
effective law enforcement. Similar types and amounts of crime have occurred in the Bagby area for years, been the subject of negative media attention, and remain inadequately controlled. Thefts, breakins, and panhandling are chronic problems from snow boarders in Government Camp. The only difference is that there are no private property owners near Bagby who are also victims and who complain to the FS like the residents of Blue River and Government Camp.
An important point being missed is that most crime does not occur at either
Bagby or Cougar, but in the surrounding areas accessible by road. This is best detailed on the Friends of Cougar web site.
The single key problem is lack of law enforcement. When adequate law
enforcement was available in 1998, crime dropped dramatically. Most behavior objected to by locals is illegal, and once laws and regulations were enforced the perpetrators left. Your documentation mentions other years when increased law enforcement was effective. The hot spring is not the problem.
All agencies supplying law enforcement to Cougar have budgets and priorities, and lack of officers is the basic problem. But all citizens have the option to lobby their elected representatives to increase the number of officers, to incorporate their communities and create local police departments, or introduce initiative measures to fund tax bases to pay for law enforcement. The local McKenzie corridor residents have decided to do none of those things, so they must get by with the law enforcement that they are willing to pay for. It should not be the role of the FS to impose burdensome rules on visitors to public lands, in order to compensate for the lack of local law enforcement staff. The hot spring is not the problem.
I request the FS apply for an exemption to Lane County's nudity ordinance for Cougar at its earliest convenience.
It is sad to see pedophilia and sexual predation even on the table as issues.
Sexual predators look for an environment where they can see the same child
repeatedly and gain its trust, and where they can take it to a private space
while the parents aren't around. None of those conditions are present at Cougar or Bagby, and apparently no sex crimes of that nature have happened at either place. This is a prejudicial argument inapplicable to Cougar.
It is the sex and pornography industry that spends millions every year
advertising that all nudity is followed immediately by sex. The naturist
community battles with them constantly to explain that the opposite is true,
that nude recreation is done every year by millions in public and family
settings without any sexual aspect. Which group deserves to be believed?
In all my years on watch at Bagby, nudity has never been a problem. Alcohol abuse has been the source of 95% of the problems. Hard drug use (paranoia producers) or inadequate medication (scizophrenics off their meds) is 3%. Medical emergencies is 2%.
Nude use should continue as it has historically. Nude use has long been over 90%; it is irrational to expect those people to change. Almost all other hot springs and swimming facilities in the area require suits, and can serve those that wish that environment. I expect Oregon will eventually become more like California where all public and most private hot springs are suits optional. Because of the winter temperatures here, there are no other opportunities for naturism except hot springs for much of the year. Many people travel long distances to visit expecting suits optional and having no way to know in advance. If this policy is changed it will likely need to be reversed before long, considering the steady increase in the popularity of naturist recreation and travel.
No legitimate naturist wants to offend or surprise anyone. Adequate signage must be a part of the trailhead.
Apparently the FS and local residents all agree that 1998 saw a big decrease in crime and harrassment, even though the permission of nudity remained. Law enforcement is the solution, and nudity is not the problem.
The FS documents give many good suggestions for making it easier to buy passes; I won't repeat them. I would like to see an annual pass, and/or the ability to buy day passes in advance.
I would like to see at least some night use tried again. If 24-hour use seems
too much to start, I would suggest sunrise to 10 PM. This would coincide with dark in the summer, and allow additional use in the winter when other
recreational use of the area is down. At Bagby, there is a bar-closing crowd
that we sometimes see between 11 PM and 4 AM on Friday and Saturday which is the biggest potential source of trouble for the week. But alcohol is still allowed at Bagby, so if its ban is enforced at Cougar then the risk should be much less. Opening some night use would spread out the users over the day. (Over the year, about 40% of 40,000 visits to Bagby are at night.)
I was pleased to hear that the FS and local community both felt there was great improvement in 1998. I understand that you may not be able to maintain the same high level of law enforcement. If you can't, I might suggest trying to save up staff time for periodic random saturation patrols.