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March 29, 2013 10:00 PM

Hot Springs Voters Take The Plunge

Hot Springs, SD

For more than a century people have been swimming and sliding into naturally heated spring water at Evan's Plunge in Hot Springs. But in recent years the facility has closed its doors over the winter months. Now, people in the community have given the city the green light to look into buying Evan's Plunge in the hopes that it may be able to turn things around.

If you've driven by what people in Hot Springs call "the Plunge," you've probably noticed the 'For Sale' signs.  

"Everybody's been very concerned that it was going to go away, and our concern is if it goes away tourists will just kind of drive through and go on to Custer," Hot Springs voter Jeff Shannon said.

Evan's Plunge is the state's oldest tourist destination, drawing people to Hot Springs since 1890.

On Tuesday, voters headed to the polls to cast ballots on whether the city should purchase the Plunge.  The measure passed by a margin of 11-votes.

"We cannot borrow more than $1.9 million to get the project done, and of course that will include some costs right away to get in there and get some renovations done," Hot Springs Mayor Don DeVries said.

"I support the city in whatever decision it makes, I just am concerned that this is just yet another burden to the taxpayers here in a very poor county," Shannon said.

But where some are concerned, others are optimistic.

"It made money for the people who had it running for half of the year, and I don't see why it can't make money the year round," Hot Springs voter Don Tillotson said.

If the city is able to seal the deal with the current owners of Evan's Plunge, citizens may even be able to weigh in on its future.

"What should it look like in 20 years?  Should it have some outdoor waterfalls, or should we be able to see the springs from outdoors and have the water flow inside?  I don't know," DeVries said.

And people in town hope their vote sets the Plunge on pace in the right direction.

"I hope I'm right and it turns out real well and the city can make some money out of it and the kids will get as much enjoyment out of it as I did when I was a kid," Tillotson said.

The city has until May 1 to finalize a deal with the current owners of Evan's Plunge.  There was some concern that if the water park was purchased by a private buyer it may not stay open to the public.

Evan's Plunge officially opens for the season on April 1.

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