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Monday, November 16, 2009

Assertion of the Owner's Rights to Scenic Hot Springs

adverse possession ... "squatter's rights"
A means of acquiring title to real estate where an occupant has been in actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and continuous occupancy of property for the period required by state law.

In common law, adverse possession is the process by which title to another's real property is acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period.


Do we need to say more about why access is controlled at Scenic Hot Springs? There are those who would love to see the old days of Scenic once again restored . . . exclusivity. Come visit 'my' hot springs. But the fact is, they are not 'your' hot springs. They never were. The current owner is the one who pays property taxes, the one who has to deal with county, state and federal agencies with regard to illegal construction and use on 'his' land. He asserts his rights by asking that those who want to visit his property have prior permission to do so.

There is a sad story about another hot springs in California . . . Crab Tree Hot Springs . . . where a cabal of users hunkered down and basically took possession of the hot springs to the point that innocent visitors were faced with booze-drinking, gun-toting squatters that drove these once really nice hot springs into obscurity . . . people afraid to venture anywhere near. The price of admission (according to one account), a bottle of whiskey. To the point where no one is making any real attempt to challenge this form of adverse possession by a group that has nebulous ownership of the property . . . that includes some areas of the Mendicino National Forest and certain high-water shorelines of the river that under state law are public property.

There are those of the old school of the Friends of Scenic Hot Springs that would like to see this happen at Scenic; they have expressed it in statements like 'hot springs belong to the people' and 'we have a right to enjoy nature's gifts'. You may think so but there is still the problem of the owner asserting his rights to use his property as he seems fit.

It does not matter that you disagree with the basic tenets of law and claim hot springs are for everyone. It does not matter that you believe that because the springs are way out there in the forests and mountains that they are public property. They are not and haven't been so since the land grant days of the railroads in the 1850s . . . before Washington State statehood.

We post 'No Trespassing' signs . . . and they promptly get torn down. We do spot visits and try to educate visitors . . . yet people still traipse up there late at night carrying boom-boxes and cases of beer.

There is another tenet of tort law, called 'attractive nuisance' that holds a property owner responsible for things that can go wrong on his property . . . unless he controls access and mitigates risks (for example, by education, remoteness, access). The Conditions of Access in the sidebar is but one means of accomplishing this. Simply put, if you do not have advance permission to visit Scenic Hot Springs and have not explicitly accepted the Conditions of Access, then you are trespassing, pure and simple.

A recent visitor to the springs . . . an old-school Friends of Scenic Hot Springs volunteer claiming thousands of hours of labor and work on the now-demolished decks and pools . . . bad-mouthed the current situation as "the blog being dumb" to "they never respond to permission requests" to "alot of nerve to charge $5". Okay, let's respond to those dissents . . . made by a person who was given a free pass and now has the nerve to badmouth to a number of responsible soakers who did have permission.

The Blog is Dumb:
Well, it doesn't say what you want it to say, so you are probably right from your perspective. This blog is here to give a focus point for what's happening at Scenic. Admittedly not much because the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly. Still, it is the only official place you will find out what is happening . . . because it has the owner's grace. So sparse and dumb it may be . . . would you like to write some historical articles about what it was like during the heyday of Scenic?

They Never Respond to Permission Requests:
You never asked for permission. Period. Instead you now imply that you are better than everyone else by dint of your previous, illegal involvement . . . privileged. Others mouth the magic phrase, "I know the owner," or "the owner gave me permission." Doesn't wash it with me or the other stewards. We have a list of those the owner has given explicit permission to visit. It is a short list, believe me . . . and I know most of those people on sight. The catch-phrase, "The owner said it was okay," doesn't wash with me. You do not have permission . . . you were given a complimentary free pass for the day. You want to continue going up there . . . request and agree to the 'conditions' as asked of everyone else.

I get three or four requests to visit every day and I respond to every one of them. Most never bother to read the Conditions of Access and that is the end of the request . . . no permission. Some ask to visit on that very day . . . sorry, you have to give me some lead time because I am not going to sit in front of my computer 24 hours a day waiting to respond to a request to visit that very day. If you look at the calendar in the sidebar you will see that only one or two parties a week actually do the right thing, agree to the conditions and ask early. The overwhelming majority are freeloaders and trespassers but we will eventually get to them in the form of increased calls for LE assistance, etc.

"alot of nerve to charge $5"
Why? Are you maintaining the site? No, so get a life. One liner (there are two) costs $80 . . . out of the steward's pockets. Replacing the locks on the gates . . . $20-30. Driving 50-80 miles to respond to an incident? Another $20 bucks out of the wallet and time we'd rather spend doing other things. Ruining the evening for a bunch of beer-drinking, naked teenagers trespassing at night and sending them packing? Priceless! (Sorry, MasterCard . . . I couldn't resist)

When the springs are finally permitted for access by the general public the steward's duties will pass to a paid caretaker and the access fees will be in the range of $10 to $15 . . . to pay the caretaker's wages and maintenance costs. You will find a safe, controlled environment with clean pools, potential good parking areas, etc. There will be no more trespassing. And there won't be a dictatorial band of squatters demanding you pay homage to them because they control the springs. Till then, we will continue to promote and advance the owner's rights to his property . . . as he has asked us to do.

9 comments:

  1. Here here. I remember when I first started going to scenic back in the late 90's early 2000's and I experienced the good with that bad. I have been up there with friendly well meaning people and I have been there with rowdy "I don't care kids." I have also been priviledged to be up where alone and much prefer the alone and with friendly people.

    We (the public) had our chance to show we could handle the responsibility of maintaining the springs and from what I have heard both here and from a friend who does search and rescue for King County we all did a pretty poor job of it. This is not to say all of us are guilty but those of us, and I include myself in this, who don't speak/stand up to those who are ruining it for all of us we are just as guilty as those who are intentionally breaking the rules.

    What impresses me most about the current situation is that when the fight to save the springs first started I contributed money to the fight once then when I tried to contribute again I was turned down and told just come volunteer for a work party or pay the $5 to visit. To me that shows the integrity of the current ownership and caretakers as they would rather have help or a small tith speaks volumnes to their integrity, although I would still love to donate a small sum to the cause since with my current family situation I am unable to visit but still believe in the cause if you will.

    To those nay sayers out there which would you rather have? Access to a beautiful view and nice soak or more locked gates with no access at all. I for one hope that it stays the way it is with just a simple $5 entry fee. I know it is hard work and time out of your lives that you often times can't get back but I will be honest I am tired of seeing land developed and developed and developed. Part of the magical revitalizing energy of Scenic is that it is so natural and undeveloped.

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  2. Hey Rick, Sorry about the misunderstanding, I Never said The blog is dumb or the nerve to charge money. I know you need money,so that why i was tell a fellow soaker about the blog. Now on permission i might have said something like that.Because i was haveing a problem, on my end. Well, sorry. I've thought asked to be contacted, and you may not received the e mails. I wasn't talking bad about you guys all.

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  3. Hey someone was bad mouth me, misquote me. That's why i point out what i said. So it's wasn't fare of them to post that. It's wasn't truth. That's lies about the Blog be dumb and the a lot of nerve, I'm mad, that not right to lie. Yes i said things about them because they are wrong about what i said, and the fellow soaker who gave me his number, can tell you too.

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  4. Actually, Hotspringer, I'll pass on a couple of comments.

    First, I avoided naming names on purpose because my intent was never to target one individual by name.

    That said, the gist of the post stays accurate . . . these are the jockeying politics we are facing up at Scenic with access . . . too many people claiming an absolute right to go up there anytime they want because of their past involvement during the heyday.

    The situation has changed. Scenic was shut down short of being declared a public nuisance (the used building code violations as the excuse). The previous owner sold under pressure and the new owner has pledged to stop the kinds of activities that caught law enforcement's eyes in the past.

    No matter what was said up at the springs they other day, we have heard it before and it is getting old. Scenic is never going back to the way it was. The owner has pledged it and we have pledged to support the owner. You said it . . . or someone else said it. Doesn't matter. I tried to keep this general but we will not allow desire for the past to deter the need to show the county and forest service that we can control the pristine location of Scenic.

    I'm sorry if you feel slighted. My intention was put the Old Guard on notice (if they even bother to read this blog) that there are no special privileges. You want to soak, seek permission like everyone else. I found your request to visit and like everyone else, I asked you to download, read and accept the Conditions of Access . . . and I never heard anything else back.

    Regards needing money . . . that is a minor issue. It would be nice to recompense Matt for the last set of tarps he bought but that is not the point of asking people to donate. The point is to get people to show they care enough to commit and make a token contribution. These are the type of people we want to allow up at Scenic . . . not the people who assume the place is theirs for the taking.

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  5. To John,

    Scenic will see no development under the current scope of the permits (other than the rock-lined pools, some trail improvement and perhaps a changing room and proper latrine). The property is going to be designated a forest park.

    Does your friend in SAR remember the search for an errant visitor back in Dec of 1996? The one that missed the switchback in a snowstorm at night and ended up a couple of miles away near Scenic Creek? Hailed as a hero for surviving . . . a total idiot for being unprepared and hopped up on drugs, and having even bigger idiots for friends who didn't even notice him missing until well into the next day.

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  6. Rick,

    I believe that is the one he was one and was the reason why he thought it was a problem way back then.

    I appreciate the update on the future development plans, it is good to see that the plan is to keep it as is and not try to make it something, in my humble opinion, it is not.

    Keep up the good fight and hopefully some day I will have the time to seek permission and return.

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  7. I love this place! Thanks to all of you who are trying to keep it clean, beautiful and accessible.
    On a completely different note, is everyone on vacation right now? I've been trying to get a hold of the owners to get permission for a few days now and haven't heard back.
    Thanks!

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  8. To all those people who think they should be able to go up there any time or that it shouldn't been the owner's choice on whether to cut access to the springs, maybe they should think about who MADE the springs what they are. THE OWNER. He's the one, I assume, who made the actual pools for people to soak in in the first place. If the pools weren't there, I can imagine it would just be warm water running down the mountainside! i don't think that people think about what things like this take. Especially when dealing with the public. It's his land. He can do what he wants with it. Yeah, I would love to go up there without asking permission but I'm not going to do it. It isn't right and it isn't my land. End of story. I hope this all gets resolved sooner rather than later because I would really hate to see the springs just closed. Period. That would be very unfortunate, but more than understandable for the damage being done recently.

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  9. Alicia, Thank you for the understanding thoughts. Mike, the owner, has gone out of his way to keep these springs accessible during the permitting phase. It is unfortunate that we have to close it now but we must get vandalism and access under control . . . a get requirement for getting the final permits.

    Scenic will reopen. This is a hiatus only . . . a breathing period while we reassess what is going on and how to control it.

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