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corporate dominance | forest defense

Cougar Hot Springs defunded, privatized

We wrote an angry letter to Hoodoo in response to the Forest Service awarding a contract to that private company for them to manage and charge fees for access to the springs. The fee to be charged is $5 for parking and then $5 per person to soak, per day. The reason for this is that the Forest Service is being defunded by Bush in order to open our public lands and recreation facilities to private companies. Read the exchange between us and Hoodoo President Chuck Shepard. You can also email him at the address provided.
Dear Mr. Shepard,

We appreciate your response and apologize for our
harsh words if they were uncalled for. We hope that
you can hear the point of view of harmless FS users as

You must know that the reason why the FS doesn't have
enough funds is because the Bush Administration has
cut FS funding to the bone and plans to continue to
cut it, this time by almost half of its current
budget, for the next fiscal year.

You must also know that the FS isn't supposed to be
making money off the hot springs or any other National
Forest recreation. The taxes we pay each year are
already supposed to be covering these costs. To have
to pay fees again is called double taxation, which is
unconstitutional. The crisis of which you speak is
being intentionally engineered for a very specific,
profit-directed reason, even if your company in itself
doesn't profit from managing the springs.

Is your company a member of the American Recreation
Council? If so, did you know that their enormous
influence and insider clout is what is largely
responsible for this decrease in FS funding? Did you
also know that the Recreation Access Tax rider was
stealthily placed at the last hour into the
appropriations bill, against the wishes of even very
conservative Republican Senators, by one Republican
Senator who has been supported by campaign
contributions from ARC?

This rider extended the hugely unpopular and
repeatedly rejected extension of the Fee Demo program
and then included into it language that would make it
a criminal act, punishable by up to six months in jail
and one thousand dollars in fines, for a harmless
recreation user not to pay a fee. In the meantime, we
taxpayers are still paying private timber and mining
companies billions of dollars each year to remove the
last vestiges of our old growth forests, ruin our
water quality, exterminate plant and animal species,
and decimate our wild fisheries. So you can see why we
are feeling a bit angry when we find that our
beautiful hot springs will now be accessible only by
paying both a parking fee AND a per person fee.

We must say that we were also taken aback by the
article you wrote on the hot springs. First, it
appeared in a local publication as if written by an
independent journalist, which is misleading to say the
least. Second, the content, "clothing is optional, but
nudity is discouraged when people are already present"
is chilling in that it puts forth as supposed FS
policy what apparently are Hoodoo company values.

Nudity is endemic to natural public hot springs
enjoyment. Throughout the many years we have been
enjoying Cougar Hot Springs as well as other public
hot springs in Oregon, Washington, and other places in
the U.S., we have never experienced nudity being
officially discouraged for any reason. Anyone coming
to use public hot springs, whether they are the first
ones there for the day or not, knows that other people
may come to enjoy the springs in their natural state.

People enjoy the hot springs in their natural state
not for sexual titillation, of course, but for the
pleasure of not being restricted by and swaddled in
clothing while soaking. People who want to wear
clothes while soaking are never pressured to do
otherwise. What we fear is that you and your employees
will attempt to enforce clothing policies of your own
creation, and that perhaps you will even use physical
force and arrest to make individuals comply with such
new policies.

What we also fear is that, if you do attempt to
"discourage" nudity in any way, FS personnel will
stand by and let this kind of abuse of public property
go on. Please assure us that our fears are unfounded.

It is difficult to see how your company can continue
to stay in business if you are losing money in all of
your operations. It is great and appreciated that you
have a volunteerism attitude, but a bit of perspective
is that for years volunteers did keep the hot springs
clean and maintained, without having to carry
insurance policies. Some have claimed that, the nice
new repair work aside, the pools were cleaner before
the FS took over from Friends of Cougar HS.

It's unfortunate that the FS finds it better to push
aside citizen volunteers around such public treasures.
For years, for instance, Bagby HS in the Willamette NF
were well maintained and policed, even overnight, by
volunteers. Then, several years ago, the FS kicked
Friends of Bagby HS out and the place has become a
dirty, torn up mess, dominated by trash and noisy
drunks, despite the large sums of money spent to
improve the trail from the parking lot and to replace
rotting wood structures.

You might consider that it would be in your best
interest to convince the FS to pressure Congress and
the President to fund the HS without collecting both
parking and per-person passes. This not only is
exorbitant for use of a public facility, but it
excludes a lot of individuals who cannot afford the
fees--an unconstitutional, unfair and unpatriotic
policy. You must be aware that when your employees
come to collect fees, they will not be very
appreciated. The FS may have had the legal protection
to confer and contract with you without consulting the
public first, but that is terrible, un-American

So our expression was not one of wanting to keep any
individual(s) out who would want to enjoy the springs,
but to prevent any abuse of public property by a
private company behaving as authority of the people's
property. If you want to come and enjoy the springs
without restricting individuals who cannot afford to
pay to use their own property, then we, of course,
extend our welcome. But we will fight for our rights,
in every legal manner available to us, to keep our
public hot springs public.

Thanks for considering our point of view.

---  Umbrella96@aol.com wrote:
> Dear Sky Blue:
> I was a little disappointed in your email. As
> a past user of the
> springs, I had always thought of this area as mine
> also. In fact it used to be when
> I used this area in the 70s that we all enjoyed one
> another's company. I hope
> that under Hoodoo management we will be able to go
> back to that time, if it
> has changed.
> The USFS and Hoodoo didn't strike any "deal"
> that was nefarious as
> your email implies. For several years now the FS has
> talked to us about our
> willingness to help them with the management of the
> springs. The management of
> Terwilliger was increasingly costing them money that
> they did not have. Hoodoo' s
> management of the campgrounds has worked well for
> the FS. They have saved
> money and at the same time we have been able to
> upgrade the maintenance of the
> campgrounds. Both Hoodoo and the FS are hoping that
> the same thing will be able
> to happen here. If you are thinking that some big
> corporation or even anything
> like that is ripping off the little guys, you might
> like to know first of all
> that Hoodoo hasn't made a profit from either the
> campgrounds or the ski area
> in over 6 years, and many of our main people
> volunteer their time and in many
> cases contribute money to help make things happen.
> In the last few years of managing the hot
> springs the FS has lost so
> much money that they have reached a critical
> junction where they either needed
> someone to help or possibly close the springs.
> Before the second alternative
> was even considered they wanted to know that they
> have done what they can do to
> make this work, and we are trying to help them and
> you. Before you decide to
> "kick your ass off our property" you might at least
> give us a chance to see if
> this can work. If it doesn't you won't have to do
> any "kicking." Please
> realize that our taxes are no longer paying for
> maintenance, toilet cleaning,
> parking lots, and security. Environment
> considerations are such that it has become
> expensive to keep places like Terwilliger open.
> While I realize that
> environmental considerations aren't important to
> everyone, I hope that you will at
> least consider how important they are here.
> No matter what I am fairly certain that the
> days of no fees and do
> whatever you want are gone at Terwilliger. I have
> heard the suggestion that a
> local group of volunteers should take it over.
> Hoodoo's management is not far
> from that, but realize that no matter who cares for
> it, they will need to pay a
> fairly large amount for liability insurance, and
> workman's comp insurance. In
> addition Oregon and US statutes may necessitate paid
> employees which if you
> were to run the company in an employee friendly
> manner will mean health insurance
> and retirement benefits. Other expenses are also
> important like supplies,
> fuel, vehicles, phone etc. It is unfair of you to
> think automatically that
> someone is trying to rip anyone off. The USFS has
> many permits like this that they
> sign without public hearings. This was part of a law
> that the congress passed
> several years ago when they started realizing that
> our forest recreation
> property was no longer being cared for adequately.
> Our permit to manage the local
> recreation properties comes available in five years.
> Anyone is welcome to bid on
> this. In fact if Hoodoo continues to lose money from
> managing for the USFS we
> most likely will not rebid to do this. We can only
> volunteer so much,
> especially when we are accused of being the bad
> guys.
> I try to make myself extremely available by
> email, if you would like
> to give me feedback about what is happening, but
> please wait a little while and
> at least give us a chance.
> Thanks,
> Chuck Shepard, President of Hoodoo Recreation
> Services

response from Hoodoo President 29.Apr.2005 00:09

cougar lovers

 Umbrella96@aol.com  Add to Address Book

Thu, 28 Apr 2005 18:31:33 EDT

Re: Terwilliger


I hope that our management style will quickly assure you that things will be OK at Terwilliger. I found it interesting that I was so quickly considered the enemy before anyone gave me any chance to present my views. I am not sure to which article that you are referring, since I have not written any article except for the Hoodoo website. If you read something, it is quite possible that the author quoted the website, which I always allow with the philosophy that I have nothing to hide.
I agree with your views about nudity. If the FS were to ask me to stop allowing it, I am fairly certain that we would no longer be willing to manage the area. That however, has never been brought up, in fact the FS explicitly has said that nudity would be allowed. As I have shared with a few that I have talked to in person, one of the reasons that nudity is allowed at Terwilliger is partly because of the actions of some of us in the 70s. I realize that people were going there in the buff before then, but this came to a head in Lane County in the early 70s here and in several other areas. I was a member of the group who I guess were causing "trouble" with our lack of apparel. Lane County addressed the situation in a fair way back then. I lived on a community in the woods for many years and nudity was not a concern for us since we lived where our clothing choices were our own so I never really thought about this one way or another. Since then, life has changed for me and I rarely have time to sit back like that anymore, but I am hardly the person who would try to stop it.
While you appear to be well informed about many of these issues, I do think that you see this differently, than I do. I realize that the government only has so much money. There seems to be a myth that this is because the rich don't pay taxes. Let me assure you that while I may not be an authority on the rich, I do know that as I have made more money, I certainly have paid a lot more taxes. But there will never be enough to do everything. It was decided way before Bush that it was not fair for taxes to pay for recreation in the FS. I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and remain a hard core pacifist, so I am rather miffed by how our taxes are being spent today, but I do think that the privatization is fair and fits my antigovernment views. So while I disagree with the way our money is being spent, I still don't believe that taxpayer money should be spent here. We are not doubly taxed for the recreation since our taxes do not get spent here. I see no reason why some guy in a high rise in New York should be paying for my camping in Oregon. I don't want to pay for his life style and I don't feel he has to pay for mine. In fact the less the government is involved the better I like it. (It is funny that while I don't think my philosophy has changed much over the years, I do see how my dislike of the government has gone from being ultra left in my youth to ultra right perhaps now) I do realize that some guidelines are needed. I don't want to see our recreation areas get sold, but having us each pay our way is fair in my mind.
You have mentioned that things have been fine being managed the way they were without, for example, insurance. However, what would happen if someone were hurt? No insurance-tough luck! In addition people have talked about how this can be done by volunteers. What happens if they get hurt, no workman's comp.-tough luck! Often we talk about how the big companies are not fair to their employees, but when they are, we complain that we are paying too much as customers and of course go to Walmart.
       The truth is that unions and some others are very down on volunteerism in many cases and sometimes for good reason. When I lived on my community one of our members went to another community to help them build a home. He got paid under the table with no insurance or taxes. He fell from a ladder and almost died. He was the last person to ever sue anyone, but his hospital costs had to be paid. The hospital through him did sue his friend. The law said that the friend was supposed to be taking care of his "employee." He didn't and got caught. This is what many people don't understand, there is a price that has to be paid for doing what is right. Before the environmental movement, doing anything in the forest was a whole lot cheaper. All the studies and paperwork that has to be done costs a lot. We want things to improve, but in all fairness this costs money. Cleaner environment, better wages, etc., is something positive. It is not realistic that someone else should always pay for this.
Bottom line, please give us a chance, and if we do a bad job, you can let me know quickly through the website. As you can see, I take the time to answer. I don't know if you realize it or not, but I have been trying to work out a program where Hoodoo contributes money to the Friends of Cougar to help those who can't afford the price of admission. We are trying.
Thanks for listening,

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/04/315140.shtml 07.Sep.2005 23:14