LAS VEGAS — Four years after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management shut down the Ash Springs Recreation Site due to safety and environmental concerns, agency officials still haven’t decided what to do with the once-popular swimming hole 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Las Vegas.

Public meetings have been held to brainstorm a plan for the site’s future, but the spring-fed swimming hole has been closed since July 2013, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .

Assistant Field Manager Shirley Johnson said the bureau is nearly finished with an environmental assessment draft for the site, but she declined to say when the document might be ready for public viewing.

Johnson said the assessment looked at a range of options for the site, including a residential group’s proposal to make it a small resort and other plans calling for no changes at all.

“Nobody wants this put to bed faster than me,” Johnson said.

The latest hang-up involves a private property that’s in the way of the agency’s plan to build a new access road to the site, Johnson said.

The property, located between the recreation site and a nearby highway, turned out to be larger than the agency originally thought, Johnson said.

The agency doesn’t have permission for visitors to drive across the private property, she said.

Cody Whipple, however, said he owns the property and hasn’t said no to any of the agency’s requests. Whipple is a lifelong resident of the Pahranagat Valley and said he wants to see the recreation site open again.

“We’ve never objected or said anything negative to the BLM about it,” Whipple said.

Whipple said Ash Springs was a big part of his childhood. He said he remembers going for winter swims and soaking with football teammates after two-a-day practices.

“We’d be in there in December and January with our hair frozen,” he said.

But over the past decade or so, the recreation site has fallen victim to its own popularity. Many local residents stopped going, especially on weekends, because the place was overrun with out-of-town visitors and illicit campers who trashed the grounds and fouled the water.

Whipple said the bureau wasn’t managing the site properly. And he said since the closure, it seems like the agency has spent its time “creating issues” as an excuse to keep the spring closed.

“That’s not a knock against anybody,” he said. “They’re just not in the resort-management business. … We definitely want to see it rebuilt and managed in a way that works for the county, the town and the people here.”

Whipple and a resident group called Friends of Pahranagat Valley said they see the site becoming a small resort where entry is controlled and fees are collected to pay for trash collection and upkeep.

Last year, the group unveiled a detailed proposal that included four man-made soaking pools next to a fenced natural area where swimming would be prohibited to protect native plants and federally protected fish, namely the Pahranagat roundtail chub and the White River springfish.

Computer renderings by the group showed changing rooms, boardwalks and trails, improved restrooms, a paved parking lot, picnic pavilions, a playground and courts for basketball and sand volleyball.

To keep the crowds under control, the group proposed entrance fees, occupancy limits, regular operating hours and “family friendly” rules of conduct.

Other possibilities include turning it into more of a picnic area or banning swimming and allowing access only for conservation and scientific activity, Johnson said.


Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com