The nonprofit Trust for Public Land will within days begin the process of reopening Astoria Hot Springs to the public as part of a 100-acre park.
The natural hot springs are located 16 miles south of Jackson on the bank of the Snake River within property owned by New York-based real estate concern Northlight Trust.
Operated for more than 40 years as a swimming pool open to the public, the springs were closed in 1999.
Trust for Public Lands representatives say they have been working with Northlight and the Snake River Sporting Club for more than a year to arrange for the park’s creation.
“Starting next week we’re embarking on the public process,” said Chris Deming, senior project manager for Trust for Public Land Northern Rockies Office — Wyoming.
A three-party agreement between Northlight, the Sporting Club and the trust will allow construction of a lodge and 40 condominiums on a hillside south of the springs.
Northlight had already secured necessary guarantees from the county that would permit construction of the condos and the lodge directly on the river.
With the agreement, Deming said, the hot springs can be redeveloped and lodging will move away from the river.
“Over the next 18 months we’ll be working to complete the shift of entitlements and begin phase one of the park’s development, which is the hot springs,” Deming said.
“If the shift of entitlements doesn’t happen the park doesn’t work.”
The old hot springs filled a swimming pool. The future development will have the waters flowing through a series of smaller, more private pools that Deming described as “soaking pools.” Materials used to build the springs will feature more natural materials than before and nicer landscaping, he said.
Although he envisions a “higher-level operation than a typical park,” Deming said his organization plans to “keep infrastructure minimal.”
Much of that infrastructure is already in place as the result of previous attempts to develop the property, he said.
“The infrastructure is probably 90 percent in to bring it back as a passive recreation park,” he said.
The park will encompass two parcels of land, one of which contains the springs and another with several man-made ponds.
Another pond may be constructed south of these to provide a place for youngsters to fish without having to brave the Snake River’s swift currents, Deming said.
The portion of the park containing the ponds will also include tables and pavilions, Deming said. Such structures are meant to accommodate events such as the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club’s annual Pole Pedal Paddle and the Hoback fire department’s barbecue, he said.
The park may also include rock outcroppings to allow bouldering, Deming said. It will likely contain a trail, too, on which hikers could circumambulate the park, he said.
Development of the park will require additional funds over what the trust has at its disposal, Deming said.
“It’s going to cost money,” he said. “Public funds are going to need to go into this.”
The trust will likely begin a fundraising campaign similar to one it used to purchase oil and gas development rights in Hoback for $9 million two years ago, he said.