KERN RIVER VALLEY, Calif. (KERO) — The magic of Miracle Hot Springs isn’t what it once was.
Most recently a death within the springs forced the Forest Service to remove the tubs and close down the area. Now officials say that closure could be extended unless key issues are addressed.
“How do we balance safety and public health with access,” said Deputy District Ranger Gerald Hitchcock.
Following a death at the springs in October, U.S. Forest officials confirmed the man-made tubs used by visitors had been removed. Now all that’s left is small puddles streaming into the Kern River. Officials saying this isn’t the first time they’ve had to handle a death within the springs and removal of the tubs was necessary to reduce biohazard.
“A lot of people are really recreating responsibility, but as you start to get problems as you get more people things tend to escalate,” Hitchcock said. “Intoxication other substances involved, but it’s also people who don’t expect something bad to happen.”
The springs have been a longstanding paradise for visitors ever since the 1920s, but over the years the quiet campground oasis has seen an increase in use and prohibited activities.
According to the Coroner’s Office, this year at least three others died while using the hot springs. Hitchcock saying they tend to see at least one incident a year and resources within the forest service are slim, which is why they rely of volunteer partners and local law enforcement to help.
“But their efforts and our efforts combined were not enough to keep this a safe and healthy place for people to continue to go," Hitchcock said.
That’s why this time, the Forest Service is considering taking greater action, potentially keeping the tubs out. But community response has been mixed.
The federal agency is holding community meetings to discuss the spring, with the next one coming on December 3 at the Hobo Campgrounds at Noon.
“It becomes an issue sometimes where we have to bring a lot of people to the table and let them understand that it’s not just between the Forest Service and the public sometimes we have other stakeholders that we rely on and they do have limited resources so," Hitchcock said.