By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–
Surprise, rage, and disappointment ensued after Forestry Service Law Enforcement officers destroyed a popular destination, Miracle Hot Springs. Many volunteers have stepped forward over the years to care for some of Kern River Valley’s hot springs.
Hal Chiprin, one of the founders of Hot Springs Angels, says, “The next meeting that we’re supposed to have with the Forest Service is going to be about how we’re going to move forward in rebuilding Miracle Hot Springs. Al Watson, the District Ranger, actually requested that we send letters to the Forest Service on how we feel about what happened at Miracle Hot Springs and how we would like to move forward. I suggest that people email or snail mail the forest service here at the Kern River Valley Ranger District. Their address is District Ranger Al Watson, 11380 Kernville Road, Kernville, CA 93283. Their phone number is 760-376-3781. email: . The Sequoia National Forest Supervisor Teresa Benson’s office address is 220 East Morton Avenue, Porterville, CA 93257. Their phone number is 559-784-1500. email: ”
For 30 years Kern County Resident Janet Thompson took care of Remington Hot Springs mostly on her own. Chiprin tells us that about seven years ago a group of volunteers got together with rangers from the Sequoia National Forest Service. “We spoke about some of the problems that the hot springs have and we decided we would form a little group to formally help take care of the hot springs: clean the tubs, pick up trash, inform people about hot springs etiquette.” A written agreement was created and Hot Springs Angels were born.
“At the time that we formulated the agreement with the Forest Service for Remington, we talked about Miracle Hot Springs (Miracle).” Miracle had been destroyed around 1999. The group sought permission to rebuild Miracle. “They put us off saying, ‘We’ll see how this works out, then we’ll talk about it in about a year.’” A couple of years went by and without the agreement being finalized someone built six new tubs. This was not received well by all Forest Service employees and there was talk of taking them down.
Chiprin spoke with his contacts and a new agreement was signed to care for Miracle. Volunteers kept up the job of washing the tubs and other maintenance and the agreement was routinely renewed. “We asked the Forest Service specifically when we renewed our agreement this last April if they had any plans of changing anything at Miracle and they said, ‘No.’ They said things are going pretty well and they sent us a certificate of achievement.”
Members of the public did not abide by the posted hours and went in the tubs at night. “There have been a few incidences of people dying down at the hot springs,” says Chiprin. “Three people died down there, I believe, in about 90 days. And it happened during the hours people shouldn’t be there. It wasn’t the result of an assault and it wasn’t the result of murder or anything like that. It was just natural causes or an accident.
“And then on October 20, 2022, the Forest Service Law enforcement went in there and destroyed Miracle Hot Springs again. It sits in rubble again and the water’s just flowing down into the river. They didn’t notify us.”
The Hot Springs Angels have been trying to get to the bottom of this destruction and remedy it. Onyx Resident David Dills recently filed a complaint against Forestry Department Federal Law Enforcement Officer Jeff Martin. Dills tells us, “I am the person who filed the complaint against the ranger who destroyed the tubs. My complaint isn’t about the destruction, that’s a losing argument they were illegal. My complaint is all the lies he told, and subsequent horror stories that have come out.” Dills was interviewed by Special Agent Mia Prince. “I told her it came down to two things. The first was that both the media and Officer Watson relayed a detailed description given by Martin. But several witnesses at that meeting claimed all those details, but one was false. Considering Martin’s long-time and well-known desire to close the tubs, this is disturbing. Secondly, after that meeting, I heard from local leaders of non-profits who have complained to me of numerous problems with Martin, including a 12-year volunteer who quit over well-documented problems with him.”
Miracle Hot Springs is adjacent to Hobo Campground on Kern River Canyon Road off of Highway 178. Chiprin says, “Miracle Hot Springs is about two miles away from Remington Hot Springs and much easier to get to. Miracle is about a 100-yard walk on a fairly level trail from the parking lot. It’s a lot more accessible for people with disabilities and older people. Remington is almost a half a mile hike, downhill, and uphill all the way. It’s kind of hard for some people.”
You can follow how efforts are progressing on Facebook. Search for Kern River Hot Springs Angels, at https://www.facebook.com/angelvolunteersforlove