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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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Trip Report: Thursday, Nov 12th, 2009

Posted with permission:

We did make it into Scenic on Thursday (yesterday). The trail in was hard-packed snow, a bit icy in places. Took us 1.5 hours in, from the parking area in the works yard. There's about 50 cm (20 inches) of snow on the ground at the springs. Good footwear (boots) is now essential. Running shoes, which some people were using, won't do now - too dangerous. I'd discourage anyone who doesn't have proper boots from making the trek until the snow goes next spring.

The pools are in good shape. The western pool (left hand one, looking down) had an intake temperature of 44.3 deg C (112 deg F), and the right hand pool was 47.4 deg C (117 deg F). Rate of flow from the hottest feed was about double that of the cooler one.

We stayed about an hour. Packed out some beer and pop cans, and some miscellaneous trash found along the trail. A lovely day, and thanks very much, Mike, for permission to visit.

Glenn W.

It should be noted that Glenn had the explicit permission of the owner and that permission was forwarded to the stewards in advance. Glenn was on a semi-official visit . . . the others he encountered up at the springs were, simply put, trespassing and certainly not prepared for conditions (which can change in a flash this time of year.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updates

Snow is coming down. Especially from Wednesday through Friday there is a winter storm warning for the Cascades. There is an Owner's Event Thursday; accordingly access to the springs is not being given out. The springs will additionally be closed through Friday (or beyond) until we see how much snow has fallen in the area.

Plows have already built up a snow berm across the entrance at Hwy 2. Tow trucks have already had to pull a visitor's car back up onto the access road. Conditions are dicey at the moment, leading to this closure.

Another note: please read the Conditions of Access before contacting us for permission. Please look over the calendar for restrictions instead of asking to visit of a day that is marked as closed.

We have our day jobs . . . we are not always able to respond on requests to visit the same day. Please plan ahead.