The gate entering Little Ash Springs was smashed sometime last week, according to Bureau of Land Management Caliente Field Office manager Victoria Barr.
An unknown person or persons used a vehicle to attempt to smash through the gate, but apparently was not able to gain access. However, the gate was bent enough to allow someone to go on foot into the springs area, although there was no evidence anyone had done so after the gate was broken.
Barr said the incident is under investigation by their law enforcement ranger Bill Hart.
She said various options are being looked at “as to how to replace the gate and if we need to install additional measures to prevent something like that from happening again.”
Barr said BLM is continuing to “work with the community and County in finding a collaborative solution.”
BLM closed the popular hot springs last summer because of damage done to the pool area inside. Then in January this year, BLM issued an official Record of Decision closure notification, that could last up to two years.
A meeting held in Alamo March 11 involving a local citizens committee, as well as State Assemblyman James Oscarson of Pahrump, State Senator Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, and Ed Higbee, chairman of the Lincoln County Board of County Commissioners.
Eric Johnson, Director of the Nevada State Parks in Carson City, was also in Alamo that day, was given a tour of Little Ash, but was not able to stay to attend the meeting.
Higbee said discussion centered around a few ideas to present to the BLM, “requesting they move up on the priority list the proposed land disposal around Little Ash.”
He said the land around the hot springs has not been high on the list previously, “for the simple reason we didn’t have any reason to do it.”
Other ideas were also discussed, Higbee said. One would be to have Lincoln County take over the land around the spring, “for us to do with as we see fit.”
Another idea was BLM retaining ownership and possibly hiring a private company to manage and charge fees for using the springs, and a third idea of turning Little Ash into a state park. Higbee said Johnson was a major player in helping create Kershaw-Ryan State Park near Caliente in 1990. “He knows how to do it.”
Higbee noted the biggest problem faced at Little Ash is that it is the headwaters of four endangered species listed by the BLM: White River springfish, Pahranagat naucorid bug, Grated tyronia, and Pahranagat pebblesnail. “So we are going to have to have some major players in there, at the federal and state fish and wildlife level.”
Higbee said the local interest group, led by Ben and Robin Rowley, does not have a name yet, “but we are trying to obtain a non-profit status, whereby we can take in donations from different groups that would help us maintain, build and develop it into what we want to do.”
Owners of Big Ash, Joe and Andrea Barker also attended the Alamo meeting, as did Rogan Haslem, manager of the R Place Shell station across the highway. Haslem reported since the hot springs was closed last summer, he has lost nearly one-third of his business from travelers who used to come up from Las Vegas on a regular basis. Higbee thought the loss of visitors has had an impact on other businesses in the Pahranagat Valley as well.
He said, “If we all stay together and everybody pushes, and have some of the state politicians help us, I think we can make something very good there for our kids, grandkids, and beyond.”