Feds Seek Concessionaire to Run Oregon Sites
Bagby Hot Springs is among several dozen U.S. Forest Service sites within the Mount Hood National Forest under consideration for private management, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore., reported.
The forest service has solicited bids from private companies interested in operating campsites and day-use sites. In addition to Bagby Hot Springs, the "Campground and Related Granger-Thye Concessions" package, as it is known, includes other well-known recreation sites, such as Trillium and Clear lakes, along with 49 family campgrounds, two group campgrounds, two group cabin compounds and five day-use picnic areas.
Applicants submitted materials in November, and the service expects to award a special-use permit to a private business in early 2011. Rick Acosta, public affairs officer for the Mount Hood National Forest, said the agency is looking for a company with "a proven track record of good customer service in managing and maintaining recreational sites."
The decision to place Bagby under private management for the first time is prompting some public outcry. Mike Rysavy, executive director of the Northwest Forest Conservancy, a Clackamas County-based nonprofit, said Bagby users worry the hot springs "will lose the nuances that make it what it is" under private management.
For instance, some fear Bagby would no longer be open at night, following the trend of other privately run hot springs that are open only during the day. Rysavy thinks users would also see a significant increase in fees.
In the early 2000s, Bagby Hot Springs was plagued by crime and vandalism, but the conservancy has worked with the forest service to make it safer and cleaner. Volunteers have supported these efforts, participating in trail maintenance work parties, picking up trash and distributing refreshments and educational materials to visitors.
Since 2005, the conservancy has partnered with the service to preserve and restore the site's historic 1913 log cabin, known as the Bagby Guard Station. The end goal is to turn the cabin into an interpretive center staffed by conservancy volunteers, but Rysavy is unsure what will happen to this partnership if a private concessionaire steps into the picture.
In response to these and other concerns about Bagby, the service plans a public meeting in January to explain the site's current status and listen to feedback. "We want to engage with the public a little bit more before we make a final decision," Acosta said.
While the meeting's date and time have not been set, Acosta said it will take place in Sandy.