The U.S. Forest Service special use permit for Sierra Meadows Ranch, at 1 Sherwin Creek Road, has been sold to Robert Lopata, President of Southern California property management firm LBPM, who says that keeping a focus on equestrian activities is a primary goal.
Formerly held by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) Vice President Ron Cohen, the permit runs through 2023, according to Deb Schweizer, Public Affairs Officer for the Inyo National Forest.
“The special use permit has basically been transferred from the previous owner to the new owner,” she said.
Sierra Meadows Ranch is a cluster of small cabins, as well as several permanent buildings, on approximately 17 acres on Sherwin Creek Rd.
Currently, Sierra Meadows Ranch is operated by Peter and Rachel Bowman, Mammoth residents who use the property for horse boarding, lodging and events. The Bowmans also run The Station, a non-profit youth camp. The Station runs programs for young people, including high-altitude training and grant-funded trips for at-risk youth from disadvantaged communities. They also offer a $12 per day camp once each summer for local youth.
“Over 2,500 kids and youth have been able to experience camp at The Station [in] the past seven years” said Rachel. She said that she and Peter tried, but were unable, to purchase the permit over a year ago.
“They did offer the property to us,” she said, “but according to our lease we only had seven days [to respond]. We’re a non-profit, and seven days to come back with a matching cash offer was impossible … about a year later we hadn’t heard much … and we had raised the money by then and so we contacted them to see if we could purchase the permit at that time.”
However, she said, Lopata had already moved on the offer. “He apologized,” Bowman said, but he had already invested too much in the transaction to pull out.
Ron Cohen said that he had first begun discussions with Lopata at a Black Pass event at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, where they had been discussing equestrian recreation in Mammoth. Lopata owns a home in town with his wife, as well as a home in Southern California.
“There’ s not something [in Mammoth] similar to what we have [in Southern California], which is you basically can go out and ride around and train,” Lopata said. “And that property is the only one that I’ve even known of in Mammoth that has that.”
Cohen told The Sheet that the Bowmans currently hold a sub-lease until May of 2018. The Bowmans expressed hope that Lopata would allow them to continue their lease after the current one expires.
“We’ll just keep reaching as many kids as we can over the next two years, and either we’ll get to stay or another venue will open up,” Rachel said. “If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”
Lopata didn’t say for sure that he would offer the Bowmans another sub-lease, but didn’t discount the possibility. “I [don’t] want to upset the apple cart,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to learn about the property and the needs of the community.
“I’ve not made a determination that we’re doing one thing or another because I don’t really have that kind of authority yet.”
He stressed the fact that those who keep their horses at the property need not worry. “The boarders should be pretty comfortable,” he said. “[Horses are] a pretty integral part of what we want to do, and maybe have even more facilities.”
Like MMSA, which also holds a special use permit to operate, Lopata will be required to go through the Forest Service if he wishes to develop or otherwise alter the property.
“At this point [Lopata] doesn’t propose any changes to the facility or the operations plan,” said Deb Schweizer.
Assistant Recreation Officer Lawson Reif said that the U.S. Forest Service considers any proposed changes. “I mean, if he wants to put a Ferris wheel up there, we’ll take a look at it,” he said.
Lopata said that it was far too early to tell what plans could be in store for the parcel. “At this point we’ve got a permit, we’ve got a tenant, and we’ve got a world of possibilities ahead of us,” he said.