Chris Carlton, BLM Caliente Field Office manager announced they are extending the public comment period for the development plan for the Little Ash Springs Recreation site until March 21.
Extending the period will give the public an additional 20 days for the opportunity to attend a public meeting in Las Vegas, if desired, March 10 at Shadow Ridge High School from 6 – 8 p.m.
The plan would provide the Ely District management directions for the BLM-administered portion of Ash Springs and address visitor usage and public safety, endangered and sensitive habitat, water quality, and compliance with existing local, state and federal law.
The Friends of Pahranagat Valley, after working together for over a year, have a proposal that was submitted to the BLM with the intent of reopening the Little Ash area on U.S 93, seven miles north of Alamo. Over 300 people have expressed support of the proposal.
The plan also recently received the support of the Lincoln County Planning Commission, Board of Commissioners and the Lincoln Communities Action Team. Friends of P.V. has also been in contact with state Assemblyman James Oscarson, state Sen. Pete Goicoechea and U.S. Congressman Cresent Hardy regarding the plan.
The website, http://www.friendsofpv.org/little-ash-springs-proposal has a concept video by graphic artist Sam Lytle as to what the group is proposing to make improvements to the long time popular hot springs. In addition, the full proposal is listed on the website for public review.
Friends of P.V. is planning a community meeting in the coming weeks to provide details on the group’s plan and the process moving forward.
If approved, Little Ash would require an entrance fee and be open daily at specific times. Spring/Summer (April-Sept.): 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fall/Winter (Oct.-March): 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
No overnight parking, camping or glass containers would be permitted.
Spokesman for the group, Ben Rowley, said the proposal will have no impact on the adjacent Big Ash Springs, which is private property.
In dealing with question of the endangered species of fishes and snails that inhabit Little Ash, Rowley said the proposal calls for a limit to occupancy numbers and swimming/wading only in the man-made pools. “We do not plan to do anything with the configuration of the natural stream and pool and will have bridges and boardwalk over and around for viewing, but not impact the water or any vegetation around it.” He said the group has talked with representatives from the Nevada Department of Fish and Wildlife and taken their input on what some of the concerns might be regarding the endangered species, and have sought to keep the picnicking areas away from the water, “to minimize any impact.”
The entrance fee, he said, would be used, in part, to pay for volunteers to help manage and maintain the grounds and enforce the rules.
In current talks with the BLM, Rowley said they have not taken a position as to whether they agree with having a private group operate Little Ash or not. “It is not unprecedented with the BLM,” he said. “There are other places in the country where BLM does, or have in the past, allowed private operation by a non-profit group, which is what we are.”
Shirley Johnson, assistant field manager for non-renewable resources at the BLM Ely District Caliente Field Office, said, “We have been working with them for a while, but we know there are some things, (studies, plans and assessments), we don’t have in place to just be able to reopen Little Ash right away.”
She said BLM is just as concerned as the Friends groups that things are done well at Little Ash that will not degrade the area and the water quality in the habitat, while still providing a safe place for people to enjoy recreation.”
What Friends of Pahranagat Valley is proposing is only one of what may include several other alternatives to the same site.
Friends has done a good job, Johnson thought, but said, “It would need to meet some criteria and we have already given them feedback on their plans, and some areas that either needed some changes or things that would be too difficult or expensive to include. And we are subject to federal laws regarding water rights and if there is sufficient water to make changes.”
She complimented the work Friends has done. “It might be a little more of a reach than we can do, but it is top notch, by local people who live there, understand the situation, and have a well thought out proposal. I think we’ll be able to find some good common ground.”