For those that have been following the comments to my article on volunteer-ism, the anonymous poster does open up some very interesting and important considerations about how people tend to claim things for themselves and it seems to be a pattern at many hot springs as they evolve through illegal possession to ownership involvement (positive or negative). There always seems to be a ‘Friends of’ this spring or that . . . the ‘regulars’. They are there so often that at some point they come to think of the springs as their own personal property to the exclusion of any new blood coming in.
What starts off as an altruistic intent to manage and care for the springs in the absence of (or hands-off approach by) the owners turns into a tight-knit group that assumes authority and dictates the atmosphere around the springs. This has happened at every hot spring I have ever been to, so Scenic is no exception. You go up there to soak and you feel unwelcome when the regulars descend and start preaching.
A culture evolves around soaking that not everyone is comfortable with; and eventually, as my anonymous poster points out, a sort of wild-west anarchy breaks out with drugs, fights and alcohol. Do I blame the Friends? In a way, I suppose they set the stage for the inevitability of this lawlessness. But in the same breath I have to add that the Friends of Scenic were also the only moderating influence that kept a wild-west, backwoods mentality from reigning terror over the springs. Imagine if a motorcycle gang had established themselves up there!
I have always distanced myself from these groups because of the inevitable conflicts that take place; yet I understand their possessive nature borne out of love for the springs, themselves. Many of them I call friends to this day.
In a way, I am also guilty of a sort of possessive nature because I do assume some actionability and authority when I turn people around who are intending to camp or bring a dog up. Only recently has the owner implied the propriety of my doing so, but I must be careful not to assume too much. I am not Mike’s agent; simply his friend and as a friend it is hard not to berate someone violating his property.
With Scenic undergoing a rough transformation from illegal to legal, it is disheartening to see sides being taken, but thoroughly understandable. The ‘Friends’ do not want to let go and let Scenic evolve. Others are only too happy to see their influence taken away. And somewhere in the middle of this, the new owner must make decisions. And he must take counsel where he can.
Scenic must change, and change for the better. The old, free-wheeling days are gone. Where authority once rested with a de’facto imposition by ‘regulars’, a caretaker will have to enforce a few simple rules for the betterment of all visitors. Anyone who has had influence at Scenic in the past will also have to change or be left far behind.
The poster has grievances and valid ones because I have also seen them and I have no desire to revisit the past.