Hot Springs reopen

Martin Leger, president of Friends of the Montezuma Hot Springs, and Dr. Victoria Mora, president of the United World College-USA, hold the lease agreement that will allow FMHS to manage the hot baths, which reopened Saturday after being closed for 18 months.

Martin Leger shed a tear while taking a peaceful Sunday morning soak alone in the Montezuma Hot Springs.

“It was very emotional,” said Leger, president of the non-profit whose members have worked on taking over management of the hot baths for nearly three years.

Closed since March 2020 due to COVID, the hot springs reopened on Saturday after a blessing and the Friends of the Montezuma Hot Springs signed a lease with the United World College-USA. This effectively puts the future of the hot springs in the community’s hands for the first time, Leger said in a news release. They will remain free of charge and be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

As part of its ongoing campus master plan, UWC-USA in October 2018 hosted a meeting to better understand how the community views the hot springs and to help residents understand the position of the school as its owner. UWC-USA will continue to own the baths on Highway 65. They are part of the Montezuma Castle property, which industrialist and philanthropist Armand Hammer purchased for the international high school in the early 1980s.

FMHS was formed in January of 2019 and gained non-profit status by April of that year. The organization has been working for the past two years raising money to improve the fence line and install gates. Members also replaced the roof on the bath house.

Recently, with Groundworks Studio, FMHS completed a landscape architecture plan to help them manage the grounds.

“We think this is a win-win situation,” said Dr. Victoria Mora, president of UWC-USA. “We are an educational institution and the community, through FMHS, is better situated to manage the springs.”  

“The FMHS will assume all liability for the hot springs in exchange for the lease, but we will also ensure that they stay open and free to the community,” Leger added. “Our mission is to preserve, protect and restore.” 

During negotiations and waiting out the pandemic, Leger said he was approached at least a thousand times about the reopening.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without someone asking me and I go to a lot of places, especially when summer started and things started opening up,” he said. “We were ready to open the first weekend in September, and that’s when COVID spiked.”

The Hot Springs Community Watch program has been established. Volunteers will provide a “presence” at the springs from 6 to 10 p.m. and remind bathers that the springs are there for all to enjoy and to respect each other by abiding by the rules, Leger said.

The watch program has 21 volunteers and needs at least 38 to 40. Call 505-690-6461 for details.

FMHS also will continue to host work days and is accepting donations. 

In anticipation of possible crowds, FMHS is asking visitors to wear masks and to be courteous and patient. 

“This means discouraging any behavior that is contrary to the rules to enter the hot springs property,” Leger said.

Alcohol, pets or nudity are not allowed. Additional rules are posted at the springs.

FMHS, which has seven board members and another seven on the advisory board, is planning a fundraiser for November. 

“The future of the springs really depends on how the community responds to the challenge and responsibility of managing this sacred place,” Leger said. “Let’s keep them open, let’s keep them free and let’s keep them safe.”

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