Currently, only one thing is certain when it comes to the fate of state parks on the closure list: Governor Jerry Brown has signed AB 42, which will allow the California Department of Parks and Recreation to negotiate operating agreements with non-profits to keep some of the 70 parks open. It’s another tool in the toolbox of how parks could operate in the future, but according to Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, who represents Mono County, it will only be available to 20 parks on the list.
*Editor’s note: We have found no other reports that mention a 20-park cap. That information came from Olsen during her visit to the Eastern Sierra two weeks ago.
Locally, Mono County stakeholders are still trying to come up with their own solutions of how to remove the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve from the closure list and keep the park operating into the future. On Thursday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors hosted the first, official meeting for all stakeholders and interested parties to come together, present the facts and issues, discuss solutions, and above all try to stop negative messaging of a Mono Lake closure.
“The hysteria needs to stop,” opened Supervisor Tim Hansen. “We need to determine who is the best agency to manage the reserve. Personally I think it should be the Forest Service. We need to know what the state does and what a closure would mean, and find out what the Forest Service is willing to do.”
Currently the state and the Forest Service have a Memorandum of Understanding, explained Interpretive Ranger for the Reserve Dave Marquart. “Basically it’s good to have someone out there in green pants to answer questions and patrol.”
The state owns the land at or below 6,417’ at the lake, including the tufas, which are really what need protection Marquart continued, but with the MOU the state and the Forest Service work together to keep things running, however they need to.
“I pick up state trash and Forest Service trash,” Marquart explained as a basic example of the crossover between the two entities. When asked by Supervisor Vikki Bauer how much the state actually does at the reserve, Marquart believed it was a 50-50 split between the state and the Forest Service to keep things running. Specifically, the state owns and maintains the Old Marina parking area and the boardwalk on the north shore, while the Forest Service owns and operates South Tufa and the Visitor Center there, as well as various trails and the Dechambeau Ranch in the area.
“The Forest Service has limited capacity to help, but we are willing to come to the table to see what can be done,” explained Forest Service Deputy District Ranger Mike Schlafmann. “We are nervous about stepping into another agency’s jurisdiction and it’s not likely we would step in and take over.“
Even if it were closed, the Reserve would still be state property.
Volunteers also play a large role in the operation of Mono Lake, explained Mono Lake Program Volunteer Coordinator Janet Carle. The Bodie Foundation, Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, and the Mono Lake Committee all provide funding for this program, so it seems that at least one part of the lake is stable.
“Whatever happens you’ll have a volunteer contingency, just make sure we have a leader,” added volunteer Igor Vorobyoff.
For now, the Board of Supervisors decided to further discuss solutions for Mono Lake at its regular Board meeting this Tuesday, Oct. 11, where it may form a subcommittee to continue to iron out what can be done for the Reserve.
Several entities plan to be part of these discussion along with the County, including the local tribal council, Mono Lake Committee, Bodie Foundation, and of course the Forest Service.
The Board also plans to send representation to a Nov. 1 meeting of the Assembly Wildlife, Water and Parks Committee, of which Olsen is a member. The meeting is expected to address how the parks that ended up on the closure list were chosen, according to Carle.