$1 could fill the hole in South Tufa funding doughnut
Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve Interpretive Ranger Dave Marquart briefed the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday regarding a letter drafted by the Bodie Foundation, which has offered to continue funding part of the operation at the Reserve. An agreement presented to the Office of State Parks in Sacramento (letter of intent from Brad Sturdivant, President of the Bodie Foundation) would basically continue more of the same. But a crucial addition would be a $1 per car fee at the Old Marina parking lot. “We get about 85,000 visitors in roughly 26,000 cars,” according to Marquart. The fees would be collected on the honor system, deposited into an “iron ranger.”
“Would that fee get us off the closure list?” Supervisor Vikki Bauer asked directly. “My opinion: it probably would,” Marquart replied. If the agreement is accepted, Marquart added it’s hoped the fee would go into effect by next spring. A decision on the current proposal is expected in the next four to six weeks. A proposal to have Bodie State Park take over the revenue stream for Mono Lake has already been turned down, with the state’s preference being that Bodie and Mono Lake funding shouldn’t be comingled.
Mono Lake Committee’s Geoff McQuilkin echoed Marquart’s assessment, suggesting that the way the model is being evaluated by Sacramento bean counters shows that its weakness is local revenue generation.
McQuilkin said he thinks a reasonable scenario to keep the park open and operational would be a mix of the new fee and funding support from local non-profits.
Mono Lake Program Coordinator Janet Carle added that a recent visit to the state park by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen and State Senator Ted Gaines will likely help bring pressure to seriously consider the Bodie Foundation proposal.
Film and scientific usage has proven to be a small silver lining to the park, Marquart said. Fees go directly to the state, but Carnegie Foundation gave the park a $4,600 donation following NASA’s recent Mars Rover testing stint earlier this year.
The Board unanimously approved a letter of support for the Bodie Foundation proposal. Meanwhile, a joint legislative hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1 in Sacramento at the Capitol with the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee (Olsen is a member) and the Committee for Accountability & Administrative Review. The hearing will discuss the impacts and status of proposed state park closures, as defined in AB 42, which was recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown.
Board funds NCOs, stays on budget
The Board also approved $75,000 (as compared to last year’s $102,845, which was $10,000 over budget) in funding to non-county agencies and organizations during Tuesday’s meeting. A creative mix of across the board percentage reductions and number juggling allowed the Board to stay on budget, but still back nearly all the requests presented.
Written requests for funding had to be submitted prior to Sept. 15, and provide sufficient information regarding the project or activity, the amount of funding, a budget and justification of the financial need for funding support.
Board criteria included promoting economic development, enhancing the lives of County citizens or otherwise improving County government.
“The Board exercised great fiscal restraint, while making a difficult decision in apportioning the available funds and didn’t exceed the planned budget.” Brian Muir, Mono County Finance Director, commented.
Receiving funding this fiscal year: Chamber Music Unbound, Friends of the Inyo, Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee, Mammoth AYSO, Sierra Summer Festival, Mammoth Lakes Swim Team, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, Mono Basin Historical Society, Mono Council for the Arts, Mono County Little League, Mountain Warfare Training Center Historical Society, Ombudsman/ Advocacy Services of Inyo- Mono, Southern Mono Historical Society, Inyo-Mono 4-H Youth Development Program, and Yosemite Gateway Partners.
Not funded so far: Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, which will be brought back as a Public Safety agenda item, the Interagency Visitors Center, which will be referred to the Mono Tourism Commission, the June Lake Historical Society, which didn’t submit an application this year and the Sierra Bounty Produce Collective, whose first-time request was tabled pending more detailed talks with Sierra Bounty.