Last week saw a number of signs go up around town indicating public health and safety issues at Halfway Hot Springs. They indicated that it would be closed until further notice, yet no specific information was given.
The natural heated watering hole 26 kilometers north of town is non-commercialized and located on crown land. A quick google search brings up dozens of mentions, reviews, photos and directions for anyone who wants to find it and make use of it for a day, a week or longer. The problem is that, being user maintained, it is up to the people who visit to maintain its cleanliness but this is not happening.
The area falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations’ Compliance and Enforcement division (C and E), which responds to complaints and also conducts random site inspections.
After being tipped off by C and E, the Kootenay Boundary Forest District Recreation Officer Justin Dexter paid a visit to the site. Dexter was appalled at the level of abuse he witnessed. In addition to an abandoned vehicle chock full of garbage, he says there was vandalism to the outhouse and plenty of waste strewn about, including evidence of human feces.
He then issued the bulletin board notices and ensured a notice went into local papers. Nobody is to use the area until it has been cleared again by Dexter personally. He would like to be able to do that by the end of September 2014.
Dexter was pleased to provide further information to the public during a phone interview.
“When I saw the state it’s in, I was taken aback. This is a hidden gem, a public resource and we are lucky to have it. These are some of the highest levels of abuse I have seen on the job.”
Dexter’s plan is to work with Compliance and Enforcement to remove the vehicle and repair the outhouse but it’s going to take a cleanup party to do some of the waste removal on the grounds. Members of the community who would like to participate are asked to contact the Nakusp Visitor’s Centre in person, via email (email@example.com) or by phone and leave your contact information while this is being organized. If you have an interest in keeping the site free and available to use, you are asked to lend a hand.
“A major cleanup of this sort is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money,” Dexter adds. “Having some extra assistance to accomplish it is crucial to having continual free access. We need to take care of it or things will have to change. People keep telling me that nobody wants to see it made into another big popular tourist destination.”