Children younger than 13 no longer will be admitted to the therapeutic pools area that draw some 100,000 visitors to the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, located 50 miles north of Santa Fe.
The new preteen policy goes into effect June 10, Ojo Caliente announced May 24 on Facebook.
The Facebook comments were voluminous with most respondents favoring keeping young children out of the pools area with others pointing out that adults can be just as noisy as kids and that the new policy does not espouse inclusiveness.
Ojo Caliente noted children are still welcome in the resort’s lodging units and the Artesian Restaurant.
“Overwhelming feedback from guests and observations from staff made it clear this change was necessary in order to provide the tranquil soaking experience our guests expect and deserve,” Ojo Caliente Resorts Managing Partner Andy Joseph wrote in an email. “Furthermore, asking children 12 and under to abide by our ‘Whisper Policy’ is challenging for obvious reasons. Effectively, we were asking kids not to be kids. As stewards and ambassadors of this sacred place, this change was necessary to preserve Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs as a sanctuary.”
Currently, children younger than 13 may use the large pool and mud pool between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Joseph said. Children have not been allowed in the the lithia, iron, soda and arsenic pools.
“We are both blessed and challenged by Ojo’s increasing popularity over the years,” wrote Joseph, adding attendance has increased 25 percent over the past four years. “The recent increase in comments from guests regarding young children compromising the tranquility of the soaking experience led us to make this decision now. Our guests spoke, we listened.”
The current policy about children was put in place in 2003.
Ojo Caliente opened as a resort in 1868 and describes itself as “one of the oldest natural health resorts in the U.S.”
Ojo Caliente is currently nominated in the Best Destination Spa category for the Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Ojo Caliente was ranked No. 4 in 2017 and No. 5 in 2018 in the Top 10 Domestic Destination Spas in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
Barb Odell, Santa Fe resident and owner of All Girls Media, a local visual content company, remembers visiting Ojo Caliente two years ago when a young child on a float went by her in the pool and fell off. The child apparently couldn’t swim and no parent came to tend to the child. Odell and another bather helped the child.
“But let’s be honest,” Odell told The New Mexican in an email. “It’s a large complex with many pools and I would think the risk of a child wandering off and falling into a pool is a real possibility. I’m all for the new restriction, just for safety’s sake.”
Pojoaque resident Patrick Padilla said he believes Ojo Caliente’s move is the right one.
“Hot mineral waters are best left to the more mature among us,” Padilla said in an email. “Peace and quiet can also be easier maintained.”
Comments on The New Mexican Facebook posting on Ojo Caliente were largely supportive of keeping young kids out but some posters defended the young folks.
From Ashley Hartshorn: “Great idea! Now if they could just find a way to keep the chatty adults quiet, because they can take just as much away from the relaxing environment as a child.”
Melanie Boudar: “Take your kids to a public pool where they can act like kids … squealing, loud, splashing. Thank you Ojo! I go there for tranquility not someone’s annoying kids.”
Lee Mitchell: “Good!! On my last visit there was a whole group of kids who apparently thought they were at Wet n Wild, and the staff refused to do anything about it in spite of numerous complaints.”
Yvette Lopez: “Terrible policy. The owners are exploiting a resource that was available for all ages for GENERATIONS. They priced out the locals because they want to maintain a certain image for their tourist base. I find this disgusting.”
Ojo Caliente is not the only New Mexico hot springs to keep children out of the water. Blackstone Hotsprings in Truth or Consequences bars young children for guest safety.
La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa (formerly Marshall Hot Springs), also in Truth or Consequences, does not allow children younger than 7 in the pools or pool rooms and youths 16 or younger must be accompanied by adult at all times in the bathhouses, according to its website.
Jemez Hot Springs: Home of Giggling Springs allows children 14 and older, citing “state regulations and our state permit.”
Fourteen years old is also the line at Jemez Springs Bath House.
However, other prominent resorts, such as Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe and the Ted Turner-owned Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa in Truth or Consequences, welcome children in their hot springs, as does Montezuma Hot Springs on the United World College-USA campus just outside Las Vegas, N.M.
“Our policy simply states that children should be accompanied by an adult or parent,” said Carl-Martin Nelson, director of communications and marketing at UWC-USA.
Ten Thousand Waves expressly welcomes children.
“We are inclusive, not exclusive,” the Ten Thousand Waves website said. “We welcome well-behaved children in our lodging rooms and baths. To provide a peaceful environment for all: all children are full price in communal hot tubs.”
Artesian Bath House and Trailer Park, Hay-Yo-Kay Hot Springs and Fire Water Lodge Hot Springs, all in Truth or Consequences, allow children.
Faywood Hot Springs, near the City of Rocks State Park between Deming and Silver City, wants children and teens supervised.
“We adore children, but anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all times and must not be left unattended,” the Faywood website reads.
What about chatty adults?
Ojo Caliente’s “whisper policy” at the pools, includes this note about adults:
“We share our guests’ concerns that some adults also have difficulty respecting our “Whisper Policy.” We are actively taking measures to address this issue including:
• Additional training for current staff
•Hiring additional staff to increase presence in the springs area
•We have plans to install decibel meters at the pools (not in guest view) that give staff real-time information about noise levels in the pools in order to be more responsive in addressing noise issues when they occur
•We are adding live flute music on busy weekends and holidays to assist in setting a pleasant tone of peace and tranquility
•Exploring the idea of reducing the flow from our overhead water features to reduce the ambient white noise in the pools so that our guests don’t have to raise their voices beyond a whisper.”
Source: Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa