Mammoth Lakes Recreation to raise $5,000 for Lakes Basin Bridge
Mammoth Lakes Recreation (MLR) has been asked to fundraise for a new bridge in the Lakes Basin.
The Horseshoe Lake Loop Bridge was damaged during the winters of 2015-16 and 2016-17 according to Mammoth Trails Coordinator Joel Rathje. It had to be demolished in the fall of 2018.
Now it must be replaced, but since the bridge sits on US Forest Service (USFS) land this is easier said than done.
The Horseshoe Lake Loop is a popular trail in the Lakes Basin. It sees around 400 users on an average day in July, and is the only soft surface trail in the Lakes Basin that allows bike use.
The cost of materials sits around $10,000, and the USFS doesn’t quite have the funds. It has asked Rathje if the town could help to fund the materials. The USFS will take on the labor.
Rathje said that since he began as the Trails Coordinator he has been working to develop a partnership between the Forest Service and the Town of Mammoth Lakes for purposes exactly like this.
“What’s the point of a partnership?” Rathje asked rhetorically, if not for a give and take like this one – Mammoth Lakes gets continued use of a trail that benefits its recreation product, and the USFS doesn’t have to further stress its strapped budget.
With most trails projects the town funding works like this: Rathje contracts a group of workers, often from Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA), and uses a budget of Measure R dollars to pay for it.
Measure R, or the “Mammoth Lakes Recreation, Trails and Parks Investment Initiative,” is a sales tax of one-half percent dedicated to trails, parks, and recreation facilities managed by the Town of Mammoth Lakes. Since this bridge is not managed by the Town of Mammoth Lakes it is ineligible for Measure R dollars.
So Rathje went to the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Board this month and asked if they could fundraise the materials costs. MLTPA committed $5,000 to the project, reducing the deficit to $5,000.
MLR has tried, unsuccessfully, over the last two years to position itself as a fundraising entity. The non-profit signed a three-year contract with the town in 2017. One of the six core services in that contract is to “Develop additional funding for both capital and non-capital projects.” The contract requires that by 2021 the non-profit raise $100,000 annually in operational funds. Those are not funds for a capital campaign, but operational funds used to pay staff and keep the lights on.
As for capital campaigns, the contract requires that MLR raise a minimum of $2,000,000 during the course of its three-year deal. MLR even received $225,000 from the town’s general fund to be used for fundraising.
It hasn’t gone well. In the 20 months since MLR signed the contract, it has raised $81,500 for capital projects and $0 for operations. $1,918,500 short of its goal.
In a meeting with Town Council last October, MLR Executive Director Matt McClain gave two reasons why MLR is so woefully below the fundraising goals set in its contract.
First, he said that MLR was not set up for fundraising success. He said that it was harder than anticipated to raise funds for a non-profit that is so closely married to a government. Many donors thought that MLR was merely a steward of the $192,000 in Measure R funds that it receives each year from the town and so didn’t donate, McClain said.
Second, the Multi-Use Facility (MUF) was the keystone of MLR’s fundraising drive, and the MUF hasn’t made it past the concept stage.
McClain remained unperturbed by the slow fundraising start. He said that MLR was seeking small fundraising successes that could eventually snowball into bigger efforts.
This bridge project could be one such small success.
The MLR Development Committee met on Monday, March 25 to discuss ways to raise the necessary $5,000. The committee only has three members, Colin Fernie, Eric Wasserman, and MLR staff member Kim Anaclerio, who is sitting in for Matt McClain while he is sick (McClain was diagnosed with cancer in December).
Fernie tasked Anaclerio with reaching out to donors via Facebook and the MLR website. Fernie said that he would reach out to the Mammoth Lakes Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, and Wasserman said that he would reach out to the Mammoth Lakes Lion’s Club. The meeting was adjourned.
Rathje said that, even if the funds were collected immediately, the bridge would likely not be installed until late July due to the snowload and the trail’s position in the shadow of the Mammoth Crest.