Sacred Space in peril of destruction & development

First, let us tell you a little about Bagby Hot Springs, and some of the things that make it a truly unique and magical place. For one, Bagby is the closest soak available, really the only public soak, for the 2,478,810 Portland/Metro population.  At Bagby, you can soak in the hot mineral waters of our mother earth, straight from the source. The three major springs and several minor seeps there run, year round, 24 hours a day. The large bathhouse flows 24 gallons per minute, at 138 degrees. There is a cold water cistern, another natural spring fed water source, from which the cold water comes. You can custom mix whatever temperature suits your fancy. Each bathhouse has a source of both cold and hot water. Some are running, and some you might have to tote in a bucket or three of cold water. The tubs themselves are made of wood.  Some are centuries old logs, hand hewn from huge trees found at the site. Others are newer, yet are still wooden tubs. Bagby is a destination for soakers and seekers, worldwide as well as locally. In fact, the trail that leads to the springs is the most heavily used trail in the Forest. That trail winds through majestic old growth, along a beautiful stream. The hike in and out itself is an awe inspiring experience.

Sounds great right? Well, it is. It is a place people go to commune with nature and to relax, get away from … whatever they want. 

So, what is the problem? Well, Bagby has a history of neglect, and even more unfortunately, violence. Over the past years, the reputation and condition of Bagby has floundered. The bathhouses are in disrepair, one is condemned, the restrooms at the site are boarded up they are so overfull, the volunteer cabin has been vandalized to the point it is dangerous, and one of the saddest is the destruction and vandalism of the historic buildings. As the structures have degraded from neglect and abuse, feelings of safety and security have decreased and incidents of vandalism, littering and other destructive behaviors have increased. If this trend is not mitigated Oregon will be at risk of losing the varied ecological, economic, historical, cultural, social and personal benefits Bagby brings to the table. People’s cars get broken into in the parking lot, vulnerable populations do not feel safe going. There are no caretakers on site 2/7/365 to mitigate these sad happenings.

Approximately 20 years ago, the Forest decided to rescind the permit that a non-profit named Friends of Bagby had been issued to manage the springs and trail. Unfortunately, as much as there was good about that organization, some things occurred that forced the Forest Service to end their permit, and thus their valuable stewardship. Years passed without an active presence at the springs, and you can imagine how that went: more vandalism, more wanton destruction. In response, the Forest Service elected in 2010 to include the stewardship of Bagby in the Concessionaires Permit for the greater Mt Hood area which included not only Bagby Hot Springs, but its associated campground as well as over 20 other sites in the Forest. Despite loud and voluminous voices of outcry from the public, that contract was awarded to an out of state, for-profit company.  The for-profit company collected the fees from every single person they could who wanted to soak, yet did not serve the site or its community well. Fees that should have gone to maintenance, restoration and providing a safe experience, did not.  Decay, damage, vandalism, violence, and eventually abandonment have now occurred. Those are fees that we, as a non-profit, will put to use towards restoring and maintaining the springs and its larger site.  Fees that, since we are a non-profit, we will not need to increase, as we are able to apply for grants and rely on donations and volunteers. To make matters worse, we then had COVID. The Forest Service themselves were not legally allowed to go there and the site has been, legally, closed. The Forest Service even locked the toilets at the springs. Many members of the community have not abided by the closure orders and go anyways… but there is no one taking out trash that is left, there is no one who is legally allowed to be there maintaining the place, implementing a maintenance plan with longevity in mind, and importantly, there is no one there –all- the time to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy this natural wonder in safety.

Currently, the Forest Service has put out a call for applications to manage the site. Great news! Before this, they put out what is called an RFEI, Request For Expressions of Interest, to see if they should take the time to split this site into its own offering. They have decided to do so. Problem… every organization that responded with plans, except ours, plans to change the site into a for-profit resort of some nature or another. We saw in no other plans a dedication to any of the things we champion.

What do we champion? We are so glad you asked. We, first and foremost, want everyone to be able to enjoy their outdoors. Safely. Public lands should remain public and usable by all. Additionally we wish to restore and preserve the historical significance of this gorgeous rustic site. We have lots of plans and programs.  Restore the private bathhouse, which we’ll let you in on something, it is currently slated to be destroyed and removed. That private bathhouse is a significant part of the experience, and some people are not comfortable soaking in public. It also provides much needed space for people. People who, under for profit management, could be left with no other private option than to spend big bucks to rent a tiny house, newly erected in the middle of what used to be fragile wilderness.  We will do everything we can to save and restore that place.  We need to do some major work to the main public structure, for safety as well as to promote enjoyable use, things like fixing the hot and cold water systems throughout the springs site. Another item on our really important things list is to have people up there, all the time. We want everyone to not only feel, but BE safe. Your cars in the parking lot, your tent and camping gear in the campground, and your persons along the trail and at the site. There is more, but that is a very large piece of work for us to get thru during our first few years.

Sounds great, let’s do it!? Well, we have to win the bid from the Forest Service first. Otherwise, they are going to continue to hand out those little slips of paper for ‘being in a closed area’.  In order to really do this right, as a community, we need a non-profit leader.  Someone to help organize, someone to help plan… and yes, someone to deal with all the copious red tape that the Forest Service requires. 

Bagby Needs A Voice. The Bagby Community Needs a Voice.  We are here to be that Voice. We are that non-profit.

Who are we? There are 3 board members. We all have deep and long connections to Bagby. Each of us having volunteered there for 20 or more years. We have been members of the Friends of Bagby, of the Northwest Forest Conservancy, Trailkeepers of Oregon, and so many more. Our bios are on our website if you are curious about us as individuals. We are founders of companies. We are philosophers. We are project managers.  We are many things, but one thing we all are, is dedicated to this place full time. And we have been working for free, no, actually we have been putting our own money in for a long time.

We have the support of local communities such as Estacada and Sandy.  We have requested and received support and data from the local sheriffs.  We have the support of many of the people who built those structures decades ago. We love picking their brains for how to’s and we cannot wait to get the contract so that we can actually get these rebuild projects going, with their involvement and support…. And the labor of so many of you who are itching to get up there and volunteer.  (THANK YOU!). Yes, we have a list. We hope you are on it.

So, here is where we NEED YOUR HELP.  We know that most people are willing to come and clean, pull out trash, help rebuild.  We are counting on all of that from our community.  And we know you’ll be there when that time comes. But right now, we need to show some funds in the bank account.  You see, as a nonprofit we actually have legal obligation to secure most of our funding from public support. We have been and will continue to apply for grants. Most of the eligibility to apply for those, however, comes after we get the contract.  The Forest Service has some fiscal requirements of us, in order to award that contract.  And that brings us back to …. Money in the bank.

So, you donate, we have cash in our account.  What are we going to do with it? Well, remember all those projects we mentioned above? The money we are raising now will be spent partially on the rest of this years’ budget, a period of time we have no money coming in from any other source, such as camping fees or soaking fees, some on projects in 2022 such as getting the engineering plans written and approved in order to move forward with these projects, but really important mundane things like keeping the trails in good condition and the restrooms clean, and having someone up there keeping everyone safe. First aid on site, having a way to communicate with emergency personnel should someone be injured…. The money we raise now will be doing good work, on site, for years. The first year after we are awarded the contract, we plan on tackling the hot water systems and repairing the public bathhouse. Big projects! But the Forest Service requires us to have a large portion of it now. This is just how it works.  We are up against large, out of state, for-profit companies, deep pockets. And they want to use Bagby to make their pockets deeper, not to serve the community.

So, however much we really do not like asking for money … we are asking you for money. Please donate, become a larger part of the community with us.  You are already part of the community.  Non-profit led management of Bagby Hot Springs, not commercialization is what we have heard for decades that the community wants. 

So, let’s do this thing.  WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER!

Bagby Conservation Collective
Dee, Kris, & Ron
  • Lindsey Greenwood 
    • $25 
    • 3 mos
  • Tim Sobolev 
    • $500 
    • 6 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 7 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $40 
    • 7 mos
  • Lori Meier 
    • $20 
    • 8 mos
See all

Fundraising team (3)

Deidre Brown 
Estacada, OR
Bagby Conservation Collective 
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.
Kristopher Brown 
Team member
Ron Northway 
Team member