Though Hot Springs was not in the direct path of totality for 2017’s solar eclipse, the event still drew interest from local residents, and created an economic bump for the city.
Residents and visitors to Hot Springs in August for the eclipse were able to view a 98.3 percent eclipse, prompting most residents to take time out of their day to step outside and view the once-in-a-lifetime event.
And while the region was outside the path that experienced complete darkness when the moon covered the sun, the city saw an increase in traffic, as visitors traveled to and from Nebraska and Wyoming, which were in the direct path of totality. Many Hot Springs businesses reported an uptick in the days before and after the eclipse, and the city’s visitor center also an increase in numbers.
Also in August, the U.S. Forest Service approved a plan by a Kansas firm to use seismic testing in search of oil and gas reserves near Edgemont, despite concerns from some residents that the testing is dangerous.
he Forest Service gave the go-ahead to Paragon Geophysical Services, a Kansas seismic testing crew, to conduct seismic testing on some 46,000 acres of land, including some acreage on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and the former Black Hills Army Depot in southwestern Fall River County.
Several residents have been very concerned about what might be in the former Black Hills Army Depot. Unverified claims have been made that chemical agents such as Sarin, nerve gas, mustard gas and other weapons lie buried in trenches under the depot’s grounds.
From 1942, during World War II, through 1967, the depot served as a location where munitions were both stored and decommissioned, including chemical warfare agents such as Sarin. A mid-1990s Congressional investigation into what might be at the depot, a proposed EPA Superfund site, revealed many instances of weapons, including chemical weapons, going into the depot, but few if any records of what happened to them afterwards. The reports also have eyewitness accounts of chemical agents being stored at the depot.
In addition to the other conditions, the Forest Service required a 2,000-foot-wide perimeter where no seismic testing would take place around the so-called burning grounds area of the depot, where numerous weapons were decommissioned, and Fall River County officials made emergency plans to respond in case the testing leads to problems with a former Army weapons depot in the area.
With the arrival of the New Year, the Hot Springs Star continues to take a look back at the headlines of 2017. In addition to the solar eclipse and the search for oil and gas reserves near Edgemont, the month of August saw the Hot Springs City Council voted to delay work on the golf course’s irrigation system until 2018. The council was considering two bids for installing nine irrigation mains, with the lowest bid coming in at $101,000, $37,000 more than expected. The golf course is currently watered by a 40-year-old system, and the upgrades have been a priority. Budget, constraints, however, worried some of the council, and the group voted to wait until 2018 to reconsider the work.
Other stories from the second third of the year included:
Hot Springs Theatre: A community anchor- A total of six people were involved in the successful effort to revitalize the movie theatre. Dave Batchelor and Karen Meston two of the six were extremely happy with the reception they received when the theatre reopened. The first movie theatre in Hot Speings came in 1929 according to Batchelor who did research on the theatre’s history.
Housing in Hot Springs, Fall River County- Greg Foust and Brian Spitzer looked at the city’s recent housing study, completed late in 2016 and agreed with Mayor George Kotti that Hot Springs needs to develop more affordable housing options.
City council welcomes four newly elected aldermen and mayor to official positions- Hot Springs city council welcomed four new aldermen into the fold and vested a new mayor. Newly elected aldermen Sam Powers, Martin Meyer, Ron Richards, and Harlene Cain took the oath of office, along with now official Mayor George Kotti. The council had just two long-standing aldermen, Georgia Holmes and Carolann Schwarzenbach who have served on the council for a number of years. Two junior aldermen Bob Nelson and Schurler Wetzel were both elected to the council in June of 2016.