Overstaying their


welcome?





A hot springs near a town of 200 in southwestern New Mexico was a popular picnicking and swimming area for locals before a horde of unwelcome guests arrived. Now, campers, vans and tents colonize the area near Glenwood for weeks at a time and many of the town's residents call it an invasion. "It could be a fabulous asset to this area but we're ashamed," Valera Holliman, president of the Glenwood chamber of commerce, told the Albuquerque Journal. Because a campground near the hot springs is in the Gila National Forest, anyone can legally stay there for up to 30 days. Glenwood residents complain that many campers resort to panhandling and theft to support themselves and to pay fines. Forest Service staffers say visitors also trash campsites by leaving behind litter and human feces. The hot springs and Little Dry Creek Campground weren't generally known until some recent guidebooks recommended them. These days the chamber of commerce refuses to mention the area in its tourism brochures, and locals take down highway signs that promote the spot. Good news lately: The number of visitors to the hot springs and campground has dropped in recent months.


* Karen McDonald