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Kern River District Ranger Al Watson accepts new postion as the future of Miracle Hot Springs still unclear

Kern River District Ranger Al Watson has accepted a new position as a forest supervisor in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Posted at 11:30 AM, Jul 04, 2024

KERNVILLE, Calif. (KERO) — Kern River District Ranger Al Watson has served in the position since 2013 and he told 23ABC that this is an unusually long time for a District Ranger to stay in one area.

  • Kern River District Ranger Al Watson has been meeting with local Hal Chiprin to discuss a path toward re-opening the Miracle Hot Springs area.
  • Miracle Hot Springs was closed indefinitely by the US Forest Service in March, and the tubs were removed.
  • Watson has stated that if the tubs are rebuilt, he wants it done using natural materials found near and around the river.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Al Watson doesn’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with someone he meets outside in the Kern River Ranger District.

“I really really enjoyed working here with the community, they were very open with me about some of their concerns, some things that we were doing good and some things that we needed to approve upon, and I appreciated that,” Watson said.

Watson is now taking that friendly demeanor to Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Dillon, Montana.

“That position is a promotion, it’s the forest supervisor,” Watson said.

He says a call for an interim district ranger recently went out for the Kern River Ranger District.

“The hope is within the next two to three weeks that one will be selected, and they will be in place until a permanent one will be selected,” Watson said.

Watson says after his departure fire restrictions and forest service rules will remain the same.

“They keep going, decisions, closures, fire restrictions, regardless of whether the district ranger is here or not.”

One of the biggest questions facing the new district ranger: What to do about Miracle Hot Springs, which was closed indefinitely by the US Forest Service in March after two people passed away in the tubs in the span of a year-and-a-half.

“Hopefully I can work with the new district ranger and we can move forward very quickly,” said Hal Chiprin, a community organizer who has been meeting with Watson to come up with a plan to re-open Miracle Hot Springs.

Chiprin says he has recruited roughly 100 people who are willing to work as volunteers to help clean and monitor the hot springs area.

“One thing that we did agree on, Al said we could build the tubs, but we have to build them like the Indians did, and we have to use materials that are in the area that are about 150 years up or down the river.”

Chiprin says he hopes to see Miracle Hot Springs open in the fall, but the timeline for re-opening is unclear.

As for Watson, he says he’s enjoyed his time in the Kern River Valley.

“It’s been wonderful, it's been a great journey. Some tough times, Erskine fire, French fire, Covid, drought, all these things that I feel like the community really came together as a community to solve. It’s been very very enjoyable, I can't imagine a better part of my career than what I had here in the Kern River Valley.”

Al Watson will be starting in his new position on July 15th.


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