In a published report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal June 6, also announced in the Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management has announced that Ash Springs, or more specifically Little Ash, will be closed for the next two years.
The BLM has extended the temporary closure of the popular tourist recreation and picnic spot and “will spend time considering various options for repairing the pool while protecting the endangered White River springfish, among other listed species,” the report noted.
The area was closed last summer when a ranger noticed the brick wall supporting one side of the pool appeared ready to collapse on a child swimming nearby.
An official BLM press release stated the closure is “necessary because extensive modifications of the man-made pool by public users has made it unsafe and is degrading habitat for endangered species.”
The wording “extensive modifications…by public users” in effect admits the brick wall was, at some point, torn down by human hands, which caused further erosion underneath the structure.
The RJ report also said construction and repairs will depend on an assessment from biologists, so there is chance that the popular swimming hole along U.S. Highway 93 north of Alamo might never reopen.
Last year, about 300 locals signed a petition asking the BLM to hand over control of the springs to Lincoln County.
County Commissioner Ed Higbee said he thought it was a very sad thing to happen for the residents and visitors to Pahranagat Valley.
In addition, it will also have a continued impact on the Shell Station at Ash Springs, and some of the other businesses in the valley.
Higbee said it would be imperative for people in Lincoln County, not Pahranagat Valley only, “to come together and come up with some plans and some pressure on the BLM, or they are going to do nothing and it will remain closed.”
He added, “There is a lot more that we are going to have to do. I think it’s an absolute disaster for the little kids of this valley to not have that place to go swim at. We don’t have a public pool. It is a great resource there. That was our public pool up there for many, many years (Big Ash included). I was taken up there as a kid and taught to swim, and we took our own kids up there ourselves.”
Victoria Barr, manager of the Caliente Field office of the BLM Ely District, told Commissioners April 7, if BLM should decide to transfer the ownership to the County, and give a non-profit organization the responsibility of management and operation, it would cost around $125,000.
“We’re pretty much stalled there,” Higbee said. “We don’t have $125,000 nor will the County kick in $125,000, so it’s kind of a stand off. We have to come up with some other method to approach this.”
As a whole, Higbee says other members of the County Commission are not too excited about the closure, or spending any money on it. “They think it ought to go back to the BLM to spend some of the money they have received from some of their land sales over the years to process this for a conveyance to Lincoln County. There is money, stashed away in the Lincoln County Land Act they could use, but they won’t.”
A non-profit organization is an idea that has been explored by a small local committee in Pahranagat Valley.
Commissioner Kevin Phillips said he wanted more information on the pros and cons and the endangered species matter at Little Ash before he could formulate an opinion and Paul Donohue said he would rather see pressure put on the BLM to use their money to fix up the springs. “They’re the ones that have the ability to do it, they are just using excuses from my perspective. They have a lot more money than the County does.” Commissioners Paul Mathews and Adam Katschke could not be reached for comment.
Higbee said about $800 is needed to register as a non-profit organization. “I think a booth may be put up at the 4th of July celebration in Alamo to help raise funds. A 501-C3 non-profit status would then allow application for major grant money to do the repairs.
“It’s the ability to get people behind it, believing we can do it and get the grants and also having to deal with the Nevada Department of Fish and Wildlife because of the endangered species there. However, I honestly think it is doable,” he said.
Ben Rowley, member of the local Pahranagat Valley committee group, said a meeting was to be held at the Alamo Annex June 10 to discuss more of their plans for “a management plan that we want to put in place to assist and manage the site in the event it is transferred to the County and meets the requirements of the Fish and Wildlife and other items that are of concern to the BLM.”
He said the extended closure was not unexpected. “It gives us time to work with the BLM to hopefully figure out how we are going to move forward. From my understanding, it’s all part of the process for what they need to have the time to know what to do next.”