The following is my Standing Declaration submitted as part of a national lawsuit to protect the public’s access to recreation.
I, Amy Harwood, declare as follows:
1. I am a resident of Portland, Oregon, and am a member of Bark, on its board of directors, and a member of Bark’s Forest Watch committee. I regularly visit Mt. Hood National Forest and many other national forests and federal public lands for enjoyment and inspiration.
2. I organize group backpacking trips focused on educating artists on backcountry skills and appreciation for the value of public lands.
3. I have visited Bagby Hot Springs in Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon to soak for many years.
4. On November 10, 2010, I joined an outing with Forest Service personnel, the director of a volunteer group that helped keep the Bagby Hot Spring area clean of trash, and a reporter from a local radio station.
5. We were going out to record a radio show about the different considerations for the future of Bagby Hot Springs. We were told by the Forest Service that they were interested in the public’s involvement in changes that may happen and we thought a radio show would be a good way to get people interested in the issues.
6. As we walked up, a construction crew had their tools and gear spread out over the forest and an entirely renovated bath house stood where the old bathing area had been. Nobody other than the Forest Service, including the director of the volunteer group, had been given notice of this happening. This included destroying the hand-carved log tubs that were the icons of Bagby Hot Springs.
7. The Forest Service then explained that the renovations were the only way to make it attractive for concessionaires who would want to know they could make a profit from charging fees at the site. They claimed that there was no requirement for the public to be involved in decisions around these changes.
8. On July 6, 2012, I led seven artists out of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness at the end of a week-long backpacking trip. I never saw any sign of a collection happening as we came into the bath house area.
9. We hiked the mile or so out to the parking area where a car was scheduled to meet our group. As we approached the parking area there was a representative from the concessionaire who had been awarded the campground contract standing at the trailhead informing people that there was now a fee for Bagby, in addition to the parking fee. He was giving wristbands to people who paid.
10. I informed the man that he could not charge people to use the trail and that he should be clarifying to people that they did not need to pay if they were not going into the tubs.
11. He told me that I needed to pay for our group. At $5/head that would be $40. We subsidize all of our trips to ensure that low-income artists can join us. This cost would have to be incurred by us to continue to keep our trips free to those who cannot afford to pay. As I stood there, I witnessed a multi-generational family of 9 pay $45 on top of the fee for their two cars to park at the trailhead. I argued with the representative that this was exclusionary to force people to pay so much money for a public resource.
12. I intend to return to Bagby Hot Springs regularly and hope I will not have to pay such fees again.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.