Offer emerges to develop Glenwood Springs’ So. Canyon hot springs site | AspenTimes.com

Offer emerges to develop Glenwood Springs’ So. Canyon hot springs site

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The South Canyon hot springs, often referred to as the "hippy hot springs," are located on Glenwood Springs city-owned land near the South Canyon Landfill.

The old "hippy hot springs" in South Canyon, and the sketchiness that has plagued the city-owned site for decades, could be a thing of the past if plans to develop the area into a new recreational amenity pan out.

Steve Beckley, owner of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with his wife Jeanne, is offering to lease the site from the city of Glenwood Springs for 18 months in order to do the necessary pre-engineering and come up with a development plan.

A concept plan presented by Beckley and land planner Ron Liston to City Council on Thursday envisions designed hot springs facilities and a campground at the site along Garfield County Road 134, just below the city's landfill.

In addition, Beckley wants to build a campground at the city's upper South Canyon property where a new mountain biking trail system is about to be constructed.

A lease would allow for water quality testing at the springs and the pool that exists, plus a test well to determine the potential for development and availability of potable water in the area. Beckley and his team also would use the time to design the lower and upper RV park/campgrounds, and obtain any city, county and state permitting that would be necessary.

Two pools exist at the makeshift site that has been a popular hangout over the years for those looking for a free soak. It's also been a problem area for law enforcement officials, and in more recent years has become a haven for some rather seedy activity, according to city officials.

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The hot springs are listed on several websites and in books pointing to some of the off-the-beaten-path hot springs in Colorado. But recent online comments have been less than favorable when it comes to the South Canyon site.

"Scary," one person wrote on tripadvisor.com.

"Used to be awesome — now just creepy and dirty," another wrote.

Still, others rate the experience more highly.

"Beautiful hot spring in the middle of nowhere," one visitor wrote. Many also say the best attribute is that it's free of cost, and free of fancy development.

While the pools tend to be "very polluted," Beckley said, not only from trash but also in terms of water quality, the underground source itself is clean, he said.

"This is much different than the mineral water sources we have within the city, and is from a whole different formation," Beckley advised council. "It looks pretty promising."

In addition, a master plan for the area could serve to improve some of the existing facilities, such as the gun club and archery range. Future amenities in conjunction with the new mountain bike trails also could include interpretive trails, picnic areas and a disc golf course.

The city has been working with the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association to design and build a network of trails in the upper part of South Canyon. Construction is expected to begin this spring.

If the hot springs and campground plan proves to be feasible, Beckley said he would pursue a 20-year lease with the city, with extension terms. Lease payments would be based on 5 percent of gross revenue for camping and use fees.

Revenues to the city from the operation also could help to support general recreational facility maintenance in Glenwood Springs, he said.

"If the project is determined to not be feasible, there would be no obligation for the city to enter into a long-term lease would be terminated," according to the proposal.

City Council members were generally open to the idea of entering into the lease so that the proposal can be further studied. A lease proposal is expected to be before council at its next meeting on Feb. 1.

"This could be a really nice amenity for the town," Councilwoman Shelley Kaup said, adding she would want to make sure wildlife issues and access issues were adequately addressed.

Added Councilman Steve Davis, "I have every confidence in the Beckleys to do this right, and I would like to see that kind of development occur up there."