Last fall when Bridgeport pulled together for its Main Street Design Fair (which led to the back-in angled parking), one idea that was explored was a Bridgeport Multi-Agency Office and Visitor Center.
One Tuesday, Mono County Associate Analyst Wendy Sugimura brought the idea before the Board of Supervisors once again to have it provide input on the conceptual programming and site planning for a multi-agency office and visitor center, and provide direction on the County’s future role in this project.
“This is only conceptual today,” Sugimura explained. “We’re just getting to conversation started.”
In her staff report she explained that the recommendation is for the County to facilitate interest and commitment by a third party who would own, develop and operate this facility.
Sugimura added that while there is a visitor center in Bridgeport, the town would like to see something more.
At this point a multi-agency working group consisting of the Bodie Foundation, Bodie State Historic Park, Bridgeport Indian Tribe, Bureau of Land Management (Bishop Field Office), Caltrans District 9, Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Mammoth Hospital, USFS (Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest), and Mono County have met several times to review a 2004 feasibility study for a visitor center, and develop a revised set of project goals, assumptions, and potential sites. An initial program concept, anchored by Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Service offices, was scoped and a minimum site size of approximately 1.4 acres was identified, Sugimura explained.
Three potential sites have been identified at this time, but conversations with owners and potential developers have yet to begin, Sugimura explained. The three sites are:
Buster’s Market: an assemblage of seven parcels under one property owner at the north end of Bridgeport.
The south-side assembly: an assemblage of up to four parcels on the south side of Main Street between the Bridgeport Inn and Hays Street.
The north-side assembly: an assemblage of three parcels on the north side of Main Street between Eastern Sierra Community Bank and the Walker River Lodge.
Sugimura pointed out that one major item of concern that the County would need to keep in mind when reviewing any of these sites would be to keep parking from being the predominant land use.
“On a main street you have to be careful, you need to engage people passing by,” Sugimura said, suggesting that the parking needed to be pushed back and the buildings be placed along the street.
The mention of parking gave Supervisor Larry Johnston another opportunity to question the back-in angle parking installed in Bridgeport. He has questioned the functionality of the parking since the change was made last fall.
“Are we doing this just to be different,” he asked, citing the many instances he has seen of people using the parking incorrectly because they don’t understand it.
“How will we ultimately judge if it’s working,” he asked.
Sugimura said Caltrans would judge its success on the accident rate.
Getting back to the topic of the new multi-agency office and visitor center, Sugimura reiterated that the objective for the day was to have the Board define the County’s role plus sign a letter to help engage the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in the process so that conversations with potential developers such as the Bridgeport Colony Development Corporation could be opened.
While the County could look at purchasing a property for the project as well, some Supervisors were concerned with the thought of this because turning private property into County-owned property would take it off the tax rolls.
Supervisor Fred Stump was not comfortable assigning staff to continue to pursue this when everyone was already so busy, but Supervisor Johnston said it should be looked at as an opportunity, not a headache.
Supervisor Tim Fesko agreed and said the Board should allow Sugimura to run with the concept to see what she could find.
“We can’t answer anything until we know what’s out there,” Fesko said.
The Board directed Sugimura to open dialogue with interested parties and unanimously approved the letter to Caltrans to begin collaborative efforts to include a new CHP facility in the project.