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Washington City officials, residents discuss future of historic Warm Springs

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Posted at 10:03 PM, Feb 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-08 00:03:26-05

SOUTHERN UTAH -- Washington City is getting a lot of heat from residents about their plans to turn the historic Warm Springs into a city park. City officials said that has always been the plan, but some residents who spoke with FOX 13 News aren’t on board.

Rex Torgenson is a Washington City resident, and he said he believes Warm Springs should be saved rather than destroyed. He said he approves of the city’s effort to clean up the area around the hot springs, also called The Boilers, but he said the springs themselves need protection.

"They should clean it up, put a fence around it, or they're going to have young kids down there in the night drinking beer, carrying on, having parties,” he said.

The city took the fences down in January after being closed for close to 20 years, but they received a fair amount of backlash in the process.

Warm Springs was among the first spots early settlers got their irrigation water. Non-profit groups have presented plans to preserve it, saying it represents a unique ecology. But city officials said the city has always intended it to be a park.

“In our master plan, we designated the Warm Springs as a potential park area,” said Ken Neilson, Washington City Mayor. “I think a park is a great thing, at this point we're probably just going to not do the park at this point. Maybe in the future, maybe not.”

One of the main concerns residents have had about the city coming in here with trucks is whether they have the right to disturb the water source. It is still used by people for irrigation, so they wondered if the city had the right to change it.

“There was some concern about the Army Corp. of Engineers having some consternation with that,” Nielson said. “They came on site with us the day that we did it, and they said that they have no concerns.”

Neilson said all the discussions city officials have had about the springs have been in open meetings. While there aren't any immediate plans for the area, some residents said they hope the city will be more transparent in the future.

“They should come out and let the people know that there’s a historical pond,” Torgenson said.