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BLM Preps To Tear Down Popular Hot Springs Outside Boise

Ben Amstutz
Flickr Creative Commons

Skinny Dipper hot springs was illegally built in the 1990s and now the Bureau of Land Management is dismantling the popular site.

Skinny Dipper is located about an hour outside Boise off the Banks-to-Lowman highway. The site is a half mile hike up a steep trail, and the pools overlook the Payette River.

The plan is to remove the pools and reseed the area, closing the trails in the area for five years to try and get the landscape back to a more natural state.

According to a press release, the BLM cites environmental and health concerns.

"Over the last five years, local county and BLM law enforcement officers have responded to more than 125 incidents associated with activities occurring at Skinny Dipper Hot Springs and the adjacent parking area. These incidents include under-age drinking, illegal drug use, vehicle break-ins, theft, sexual assault and two separate deaths. Bio-hazardous materials (discarded hypodermic needles, human feces) are commonly found in the area. The hot springs flow into the South Fork Payette River, which creates the potential for environmental contamination. State officials have expressed concern about water quality. Unauthorized plumbing and pools at Skinny Dipper Hot Springs above the South Fork of the Payette River. In April 2012,BLM received an email from Central District Health (Idaho Health District 4) about Skinny Dipper Hot Springs. Central District Health’s concerns referenced sewage disposal at the site. They “noticed the large volume of users at this site both day and night without a convenient port a potty or vault privy to use.” In addition, BLM found a makeshift toilet inside a burned-out tree approximately 300 feet east of the hot springs with no containment system. In May 2012, BLM issued a temporary night-time closure of the area to address these public safety and health issues. The BLM Boise District and FRFO staff reached out to the hot springs users to find a solution to allow for the continued use of the hot springs while addressing the issues identified in an environmental assessment (EA) completed in 2015." -BLM

BLM's MJ Byrne says the decision to c lose the hot springs came after years of trying to make the pools safer and more environmentally secure. Byrne says things like theft, sexual assault, underage drinking and unsanitary conditions made it tough to defend keeping the site open to the public.

"We proposed several different options," says Byrne, "but no individual or group was willing to apply for a permit in order to really remedy this problem we've got with the resource damage and the public health and safety issues."

But, Byrne says there's still an opportunity for the hot springs to be saved. She says a group could still step forward and apply for a special use permit through the BLM. People can appeal the decision until May 28, but the agency is asking that people not use Skinny Dipper in the meantime.

Byrne says of the handful of calls she's received about the hot springs, only one was in favor of it staying open.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio