SPA Newsletter – Summer 2013

 

 

President’s Day Softball

 

Board of Directors reorganized

 

New Superintendent takes the reins of Death Valley National Park

 

SPA meets with DVNP at Furnace Creek

 

DVNP continues management plan development

 

Park Service concerns

 

SPA represents YOU

 

SPA Finances

 

Forum online – Saline Valley Talk

 

Update your address!

 

 


President’s Day Softball – A continuing tradition

 

A good sized crowd showed up for this year's President's Day weekend and enjoyed the sunny weather and warm temperatures. Saturday morning started with Sgt. Pepper's pancake breakfast, with long lines. Most everyone got their fill of pancakes, bacon, and eggs. Thanks again to Joel and the crew for feeding everyone.

 

The Saline Valley Open/Turtle Jim Memorial went off without a hitch and saw Oregon John take the coveted green robe in a tight contest with last year's winner: Hendy. Golf the way it should be played - in the ruff and in the buff!

 

The morning dawned on Sunday blessing us with another fantastic day. The crowd showed up at the ball fiend around 1 p.m., and with a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, we set out for another game of desert softball, with the Skins challenging the Misfits. It was a tight game till the 3rd inning when the Misfits scored several runs to break it open. The Misfits won handily 16 to 8. The new uniforms are still undefeated for the Upper Springs.

 

The potluck after the ball game was one of the finest ever. Everybody got their fill and then some. Great food was served and eaten by a good size crowd. Music and a nice fire rounded out the night of celebration. Another great year at the Springs.

 


Board of Directors reorganized

 

Since the last newsletter, it was with regret that SPA received the resignation of SPA board member Patricia Wilder-Barton, who has brought so much to the table for so many years.  SPA is delighted, on the other hand, to welcome “Oregon” John Runkle to the SPA Board of Directors.  John’s own words sum up his credentials well:

 

“The Saline Valley family is a very important part of my life. It is the mutual enjoyment and appreciation of this beautiful and unique natural environment that bonds us together in a way that cannot be described in any other manner than "family". I have loved and enjoyed Saline Valley and the Springs for over 30 years. With 3 generations still experiencing the Valley. The preservation and continued use of the Springs is something that I am concerned about and would like to work to insure it's future. We all recognize the fragile nature of this resource, and the hard work necessary to maintain it. I feel that working with the SPA Board and the Park Service is a way to achieve that goal.” – Oregon John Runkle

 

Please welcome John as SPA’s newest member of the Board of Directors, as we wish Patricia well with thanks for all the years of her service.

 


 

New Superintendent takes the reins of Death Valley National Park

 

Kathy Billings has been selected as the new superintendent of Death Valley National Park. Billings is currently the superintendent at Kaloko-Honokohau and Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Parks in Hawai`i. She will begin her new job in mid-March. She replaces former superintendent Sarah Craighead, who left in November to become superintendent at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

“Kathy’s breadth of experience will be a great asset for the park,” said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. “Her background managing many different types of parks makes her an excellent choice to oversee the varied and complex issues at Death Valley.”

During her career of 29 years, Billings has worked and lived at national parks located in all four deserts of the United States, including Big Bend National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert; Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the Sonoran Desert; and Great Basin National Park in the Great Basin Desert.

She has served as superintendent at USS Arizona Memorial (now World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument), Great Basin National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and Pecos National Historical Park.

Billings and her husband Dick are originally from southern California, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

“I am humbled and thrilled to be offered the opportunity to work with the community and staff of Death Valley,” says Billings.  “It is exciting to return to the desert and continue to learn about the desert environment, diversity of the resources and incredible culture of the area.  I look forward to joining the park team in advancing the stewardship vision for Death Valley National Park.”

 


 

SPA meets with DVNP at Furnace Creek

 

Four members of the SPA board of directors met with Death Valley National Park officials at Furnace Creek on May 7, 2013. Board members present included John Runkle, John Dukes, Timbo Hynes, and Rick Brower. Representing the Park Service were ; Kathy Billings - Superintendent, Cheryl Chipman - Public Information Officer, Mike Cipra - Environmental Protection Specialist, Kelly Fuhrmann - Chief of Resources Management.

The meeting was requested by SPA as a means to familiarize the new Park Service Superintendent with the Association and explore how to best utilize SPA’s resources in the future management of Saline Valley and the Warm Springs.  

 

Each SPA and DVNP participant gave a brief history of themselves and their relationship to the Saline Valley.  An introductory letter from Mjr. Tom was read. This was followed by a brief review, by SPA, of the history of Saline Valley with regard to culture and protocols and the SPA website.  The DVNP appreciates that there is an organization that represent the Saline Valley, that it has a website and, is pleased with the information shared there.  Kathy was interested in knowing that SPA is a legitimate not-for-profit 501C(3) organization. Kathy has been with the NPS for more than 24 years, in all 4 deserts, Great Basin National Park and Mojave National Preserve.

 

There was an inconclusive conversation regarding the condition of the South Pass.  There was no mention of repairs to be made or otherwise.

 

Discussion continued regarding the public comment period for the Management Plan, there were approximately 540 comments received.  Most of the comments came from SPA members and/or from pilots (RAF) who fly in to use the springs.  Scoping of the Management plan has been completed but with the new Park Superintendent arriving, the plan had been put on hold. With the new park superintendent’s arrival the park will commence drafting alternatives, those alternatives will be shared with the public once they are developed, probably in the late fall.

 

Ms. Blair Davenport, DVNP Cultural Resource Manager, would like to see old history data, stories and other information about the culture, back to 1940's including photos of the springs in order to determine if improvements fall into cultural landscape or not.  There was some discussion on the definition of cultural landscape.  Later Mike provided the link - http://www.nps.gov/cultural_landscapes/LandscapesFAQ.html

 

Rick identified some of the sources to facilitate access to historical photos and will assist by supplying them to Ms. Davenport.

 

There was a lengthy discussion in regards to the 3 outhouses.  SPA was informed that the problem would be resolved within the next 1-2 weeks; and in fact they were pumped out on the day of the meeting.

 

The discussion continued; Right now, if all 4 outhouses are full it takes 2 trips. No outside contractors really want to do the job as it is too far and to hard to get to the springs.  Alternatives were suggested by SPA such as adding a toilet. There was talk of moving one of the toilets from Warm Springs to Palm Spring (since the ones up there seem to fill faster), possibly bringing in porta-potties during the high-use times.  DVNP was wondering if the toilets are filling faster due to increased use of the springs.  SPA felt that use has not increased. Rather it is a matter of no longer being able to dig a new hole as was done in the past.  When a hole was full we just moved the outhouse.

 

DVNP thought that maybe the toilets need to be pumped twice a year, but during the planning process of the new management plan, no major infrastructures changes can be made.  However, priorities can be set in the ongoing planning process. 

 

Mention was made that (to reduce fill) Georg and Ria at Palm Spring are burning toilet paper. DVNP indicates that cannot continue for health reasons.

 

DNVP expressed concern over camping area expansion and people camping outside of the allowed boundaries.  The concern is not so much that people are camping out of the boundaries but rather vehicles are driving out of the wilderness boundaries and into wilderness, causing damage.

 

Various comments were made on how the natural landscape keeps camping in check and SPA's observations were that it is not expanding.  Some ideas were tossed around, one that seemed to have the least impact, was to post a map of suggested camping area boundaries so as to not increase impact of land use. 

 

SPA asked if it can post info on the bulletin board at the springs.  The DVNP will need to see the posting information first.  Nothing can be posted without their and/or Lee Greenwell's approval.

 

The ongoing request for an MOU will be discussed after the new management plan is completed; the old MOU is defunct. 

 

The sunrise pool can be patched, but cannot be ornamented with rocks collected from a nearby wash:  It is against park rules to collect and/or move natural resources:  Which hopefully will also end the moving of rocks to block access to existing trails of the previous eras.

 

The mention of "following the law" was brought up several times by the DVNP. It was made very clear by Park Superintendent Billings that Park Rules, Policies, Doctrines, are Law. Her intent is to do right for the resources and the visitor experience.

 

The meeting was friendly and understanding on both sides with a group photo at the conclusion.

 

 


 

 

Death Valley National Park continues Management Plan development

 

During the public comment period for the Management Plan, there were approximately 540 comments received.  Most of the comments came from SPA members and/or from pilots (RAF) who fly in to use the springs. Those comments have been reviewed. All substantive issues, concerns, and suggestions for the future management of Saline Valley Warm Springs identified by the public and by interested agencies have been compiled. A summary of those issues and suggestions is available on the PEPC website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/SalValCommentReport

 

While scoping of the management plan has been completed, with the new Park Superintendent arriving, the plan had been put on hold. With the new park superintendent’s arrival the park will commence drafting alternatives, those alternatives will be shared with the public once they are developed, probably in the late fall. SPA will keep its members informed.

 


 

 

DVNP Concerns

 

Fire ashes continue to be an area of concern to the Park Service. SPA encourages visitors to use existing fire pits and to remove ashes from your pits. An alternative to transporting hot ashes from your fire ring might be to help by removing ashes from neighboring fire rings that are cold. SPA has provided the Palm Springs camp hosts with heavy-duty bags for use in transporting trash out of the valley. Remember: haul it in, haul it out, including firewood waste. Many hands make light work!

 

DVNP has expressed concern to SPA over camping area expansion and people camping outside of the allowed boundaries.  The concern is not so much that people are camping out of the boundaries but rather vehicles are driving out of the wilderness boundaries and into wilderness, causing damage.

 

The mention of "following the law" was brought up several times by the DVNP. It was made very clear by Park Superintendent Billings that Park Rules, Policies, Doctrines, are Law. Her intent is to do right for the resources and the visitor experience.

 

 


 

SPA represents YOU

 

SPA’s mission includes facilitating communication between the visitor community, and the National Park Service. Information flows both ways. If you have questions, concerns, comments, or suggestions you would like SPA to represent for you, please feel free to contact any of the board members (contact information may be found at: http://www.salinepreservation.org/contact.htm) or write to membership@salinepreservation.org . Remember, SPA wants to represent YOU.

 

 


Finances

 

SPA is currently in good financial shape, though not quite as flush as last year. Our current account balance as of May 2013 is approximately $2480. Most of SPA’s expenses in the past have been related to newsletter printing and mailing. Those costs are reduced with the current reliance on the Saline Valley Talk web forum. Total SPA expenses 2012 have totaled $1,198, going in large part to supporting the forum and travel expenses. Membership contributions in 2012 totaled approximately $454. Thanks to all who help to keep us going. If you would like to make a contribution, SPA has links to PayPal on its website and forum, or contributions may be made by mail to: Saline Preservation Association, PO Box 136, Keeler, California 93530.


 

Forum online

 

Stay in touch with current events, current road conditions, or create your own topics for discussion on Saline Valley Talk, SPA’s online web forum. We now count on the forum to provide a real time, organic newsletter to our members and the user community at large. Stay in touch and become a part of upcoming  news at:  http://forum.salinepreservation.org/

 


 

Update your address!

 

Please help us keep you informed by making sure we have your current email address on file. All SPA data is kept strictly confidential. To be guaranteed future notifications of events relating to the development of the NPS Environmental Impact Statement and management plan or other pertinent news, you need to let us know how to contact you by email. You can contact us by email at membership@salinepreservation.org  Otherwise, if you want updates, without going through SPA, contact Mike Cipra, Death Valley National Park, PO Box 579, Death Valley, California, 92328 (760-786-3227) to be placed on the Park Service’s mailing list.