After two years of collecting data, the U.S. Forest Service, the Town of Mammoth Lakes, the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, and Friends of the Inyo presented their reports to the public on Sept. 30, effectively kicking off the outreach portion of the Lakes Basin Special Study, or LABSS.
The report on Thursday night laid out the existing conditions in the Lakes Basin, which will serve as the baseline for planning going forward. The study only encompasses summer use since that is when visitation is the heaviest. Winter use is pretty locked down, according to Forest Service Recreation Officer Jon Kazmierski, who led the discussion on Thursday evening, with the permits for usage already in place with Tamarack Lodge.
“The purpose of the study is to try to figure out what to do with all the user trails,” Kazmierski said. “We want to present the existing information and gather new information from participants. The process is focused on summer although it does not preclude you from commenting on winter.”
Immediately noted by the public was the lack of historical data and resources on all the maps and existing data presented.
“How is the historic character of the Lakes Basin being studied,” asked Mammoth local and self-proclaimed amateur historian Mark Davis.
Kazmierski admitted that there was not a ton of historic data that had been collected and said special note would be taken to plan around historic uses going forward in the study.
Andrew Bourne, also of Mammoth Lakes, pointed out that the reactivation of mining in the Lakes Basin should also be included in the study.
Lakes Basin cabin owner Jim Thorpe also asked that more focus be placed on the people in the Lakes Basin during the study. “The maps need to show quantitative as well qualitative use,” Thorpe said. “They need to show how much use the trails are getting.” Thorpe also felt that the public process had been started too late in the season and that those involved would miss out on many comments from cabin owners in the Lakes Basin that had already gone home for the winter.
Executive Director for Friends of the Inyo, Stacy Corless, stated that FOI had talked with hundreds of users on the ground during the summer and had gathered a lot of input from those discussions. Corless will present this input at the next LABSS meeting.
President and Executive Director of MLTPA told The Sheet the following day that LABSS “will be a more involved and intense version of SATSS and the Sherwin Working Group. We are laying the groundwork for a Sherwin Working Group effort.”
The Sherwin Working Group was a collaborative process where the Forest Service worked with the public to plan for the future recreation of the Sherwin Area.
That effort produced 20 proposed trail alignments were verified by the Forest Service. Five of those alignments are currently going through the environment process and will be shovel-ready projects in the near future, Wentworth said.
“This is what it takes to get something in the ground where we live,” Wentworth explained, referring to California’s environmental laws and processes. The success of the Sherwin Working Group opened the doors to a continued willingness from the Forest Service to take part in more collaborative efforts. LABSS is the next one of these efforts.
New to the collaborative effort process is the use of webinars for those who want to participate but cannot attend in person. The bulk of the LABSS process, including the webinar technology is being paid for through a grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
After a review of the existing trails, a look into future fuels reduction projects coming online in 2012, and an overlook at how the water from the Lakes Basin supplies the town, Kazmierski asked those in attendance to develop their own visions of what they want the Lakes Basin to be and either post them on the LABSS blog or bring them to the next meeting scheduled for Oct. 14.
To learn more about LABSS, visit www.mltpa.org.