Friends of Cougar
Petition for having Cougar Open at Night
Cougar Hot Springs
Soaking at night can be a wonderful experience, but since 1989, the Hot Springs has been closed from sunset to sunrise each night. About 8 times per month Forest Service law enforcement officers come to the Springs in the evening to cite soakers. The fines currently run $125 per person. Typically they bust 10 or 15 people each night. Other hot springs in National Forests have a long history of being open at night, eg. Umpqua and Bagby. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the making of any law interfering with the right of the people to peaceably assemble.
There have been some problems at night. Litter is frequent, and the occasional broken glass bottle, intentional or unintentional. Usually, however, the scene is mellow, with people quietly soaking, often with candles producing some light around the pools. Night soakers typically bring flashlights, especially for the trail. The ban on night use has not stopped people from visiting at night, nor has it solved the problems of litter or broken glass. The fines have been a financial hardship for those night soakers who get caught. These people tend not to be regular hot springers.
If the Hot Springs were open at night, law-abiding people would be there at night. This group includes regular hot springers who know the rules, and also know not to bring alcohol or bottles. This mellow group also doesn't vandalize the pools or intentionally break glass.
We all influence each other, and if more mellow people were at the Springs at night, there would be fewer problems caused by "rowdies.". In the presence of peaceful regular soakers, rowdies calm down. Having the Hot Springs open at night is like having free caretakers.
Friends of Cougar intends to propose to the Forest Service a plan where American Land & Leisure (the current concessionaire) would offer a yearly night pass option for annual pass holders. It would be in the form of a label affixed to their annual pass cards and would cost $50. Although many soakers would favor having the Hot Springs free at night, this fee is necessary to make night use appealing to the concessionaire, who might otherwise lose daytime revenue. It also ensures that the new soakers are regular hot springers. If the proposal is accepted, law enforcement would still come out, but night pass holders would be exempt from getting citations. Perhaps in the future, law enforcement would recognize single-day $5 passes as exempt as well, but initially, it needs to be as simple as possible for the law enforcement officers.
You are invited to express your opinion on this matter. Please do!
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