BLM Denies Proposal to Save Skinny Dipper Hot Springs 

  • Bureau of Land Management
When Kyme Graziano found out that the Bureau of Land Management's Four Rivers Field Manager, Tate Fischer, made the decision to close Skinny Dipper Hot Springs—a popular soak spot four miles east of Banks—she became one of a few individuals leading the charge to save the springs.

She found a Facebook page called Save Skinny Dipper Hot Springs, created in the beginning of May and linked up with others vested in keeping the springs from being torn out. Now, almost three months later, the page has nearly 9,000 followers.

Graziano worked with a nonprofit called Growing Change to put together a proposal to manage the hot springs and keep it open, but on July 27, the page made a post that disappointed many of its followers: 

We received a certified letter from Tate Fischer at the BLM. Our proposal was denied citing lack of details addressing...

Posted by Save Skinny Dipper Hot Springs on Monday, July 27, 2015

All this stems from a report Fischer released at the end of April, stating that the hot springs doubled as a hot spot for crime. According to the BLM, law enforcement has responded to more than 125 calls in the past five years at the springs for incidents of underage drinking, illegal drug use, vehicle break-ins and sexual assault. Three deaths have occurred at the springs: a drug-related murder, a heart attack and a fatal fall from a nearby cliff. Health hazards also cropped up, such as used needles, garbage and human waste.

"I'm responsible for maintaining public health and safety on public lands," Fischer told Boise Weekly back in May. "Right now, I don't feel confident I can do that at Skinny Dipper."

When BW reached out to Graziano about the failed proposal, her disappointment was clear.

"Right now is pretty painful," she said. "We all put in so much energy, time and passion on this project just to feel like the BLM really didn't have plans to give us a chance to begin with."

Britton Valle, who started the Save Skinny Dipper Facebook page, commiserated with Graziano. He said he's received mixed messages from Fischer, who claims to welcome a proposal to keep the hot springs open, but didn't seem open to it once the proposal was turned in.

"They paint a picture of needles and feces [at the hot springs] and it's not true at all," Valle said. "Anyone who has been there knows that's the biggest load of crap ever. ... We try to follow all the rules and go about it the right way and they just silently bully their way to make it impossible to save this spot. It's crazy, crazy."

Fischer, on the other hand, said he's still having conversations to see if a proposal can work out with Growing Change. He said the problem with their first proposal was it was too broad. He said it recognized the concerns he raised in his decision, but didn't give any specific plans on how to address those problems.

"It was lacking a lot of details that it needed to have," he said.

As far as the $1,000 is concerned, Fischer said that's the fee of the special land use permit, should an application be accepted. He said it's likely that's just the beginning of the costs. For example, if the proposal to keep the hot springs open included installing a public restroom, that would be another huge cost for the nonprofit. 

"Some of the stuff I noticed on the Skinny Dipper Facebook page was not really correct," Fischer said. "It was an emotional response. We need a response we can work with."

As of now, the plan is still to close the hot springs at the end of this year, and start tearing out the piping and pools next spring. An appeal to rescind Fischer's decision is working its way through the Interior Board of Land Appeals, and Fischer said he's still open to working with a group to keep the hot springs open.

Valle set up a GoFundMe account to raise $1,000 to possibly help with the permit, should an application be accepted soon.
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