Aerial view of Pilgrim Hot Springs

Following Pilgrim Hot Springs’ formal closure for the season in 2018, limited use last summer, and the end of its short-lived produce project, the 320-acre property is getting some new energy. Kawerak recently announced it will join Bering Straits Native Corporation as co-managers, with the intent of making the hot springs profitable.

Anahma Shannon is the Director of the Environmental Program at Kawerak, and as such, she has taken on the task of fixing up the site at Pilgrim Hot Springs.

“We need to make sure we can lay the foundation at Pilgrim in order to do things like a gardening project, where people are maybe living on site and can tend to the garden every day, to be able to make that even more successful in the future. So we do hope to continue projects like the garden project [Pilgrim Produce]…I think everybody enjoyed that, but at this point we are going to be focusing our efforts elsewhere.”

Shannon is quick to say BSNC is still a co-manager, and Unaatuq LLC still has ownership of the property. Kawerak on the other hand will be handling various operations at the hot springs site, like maintaining the grounds.

“So first we’re looking to do the basic infrastructure stuff, we want locals and visitors to be able to come out and be comfortable, and safe. Then from there we are going to ramp it up eventually, like year by year, a little bit more and a little bit more; and just be able to make Pilgrim a destination.”

So far, Kawerak has created two new job opportunities related to Pilgrim Hot Springs. One full time general manager and one part-time, possibly seasonal, caretaker will be overseeing the daily operations at the local summer destination. Shannon says the hot springs could potentially be open to the public later this year, but safety is the top priority.

“We’re all waiting to see how this COVID-19 pandemic plays out, and as safety is the most important thing to the Unaatuq board, we’re not going to have visitors out there if it’s not safe to be out there.”

The vision is for the main road leading to the hot springs to be resurfaced this summer, followed by more infrastructure being built up on site.

According to Kawerak, if Pilgrim Hot Springs is reopened to the public this summer, all visitors will be required to fill out a permit ahead of time.

Image at top: An aerial view of the previous farming efforts at Pilgrim Hot Springs. Photo courtesy of BSDC/Kawerak (2017).