MMSA negotiating lease for Camp High Sierra
There’s no diet in sight for Mammoth’s 800-pound gorilla. In fact, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is hoping to gain some weight.
MMSA would like to expand its facilities at Eagle Lodge and recently approached the City of Los Angeles with a proposal to lease the City’s land at Camp High Sierra located at 869 Lake Mary Road in Mammoth Lakes.
Currently the proposal is being vetted before LA’s Recreation and Parks Commission.
“We are working to explain the lease and project to them,” CEO of Mammoth Mountain Rusty Gregory explained in regard to the current status of the project. “We’ve proposed it and they are asking questions.”
The City of LA currently operates the 41.5-acre property during the summer as a campground. During the winter months the property is shut down.
The camp was opened in the 1920s and is enjoyed each summer by numerous visitors, many from the LA area. In 2010 the camp accommodated approximately 8,000 visitors and guests, according to the Recreation and Park Department’s staff report given to LA’s recreation and park commissioners.
In the fiscal year 2009-10, the City spent $90,000 to operate the Camp, and the City received $70,000 in revenue.
MMSA is proposing to take over the operating costs of the property, including paying all of its attached taxes. The ski area would also pay the City an annual lease fee, currently listed in the report to the commissioners at $48,000.
“The proposal has been heard by the commissioners but they wanted more information,” said Andrea Epstein, Acting Public Information Officer for LA’s Recreation and Park Department. “They were concerned with the cost and the payment and wanted to see if what they are asking [MMSA] to pay is reasonable.”
In return, MMSA would be allowed to develop the property for additional summer and winter use. Development plans would need to go through the usual planning processes, including environmental review, and would also need to be vetted before the LA commissioners.
“We need more beginner terrain for children at the base facility of Eagle Lodge,” Gregory explained regarding what the Mountain hoped to do with the property. “Some place that can be segregated and out of the main stream of skier traffic.”
The Recreation and Park report stated that “MMSA proposes to develop the Camp with the additional equipment and facilities necessary to provide additional summer and winter seasonal sports activities, transient rentals, food and beverage sales, and related services. Some of the improvements MMSA may potentially develop at the Camp include ski lift(s) and trail(s), ski school facilities, cabins, campsites, and winterization of existing structures.”
“A ski lift is definitely part of the development,” Gregory said. “We can’t make the kids walk uphill.”
Some users of the Camp and the way it currently operates object to the lease proposal, claiming that winter and summer activities on the same site are not compatible.
Calling themselves the Committee to Save Camp High Sierra, the group set up a website, www.savecamphighsierra.com, to tell its side of the story.
“Allowing MMSA to develop winter activities could destroy the very thing that campers come for in the summer: an opportunity to camp in a serene ecological wonder,” the website states. “Allowing MMSA to develop ski facilities would likely mean removing old-growth Red and White Fir, Jeffrey and Lodgepole Pine, as well as altering meadows and constructing roads. This would be removing the very things people come camping for in the summer.
“To the chagrin of our birds, bears and other locals, MMSA has already ruined part of our neighboring wilderness,” the Committee continued on the site. “Down the hill from our scenic old mountain lodge, the resort developer some years ago replaced the meadow with a grotesque circus of three-story condos and white domes. Also erected: a colossal chair lift that looks like it should be marching in Darth Vader’s army, instead of gracing the Eastern Sierra.”
“People are opposed to what they think is going on,” Gregory replied. “We would continue summer use as it is now and do as little as possible to the site. We are cognizant of the site’s historical uses.”
While he did admit that some trees would need to be cut down, he explained that the only other option for the ski area would be to use a wetland area to the north of the main run at Eagle Lodge, which is within its current Forest Service permit. Gregory thinks that this would create a larger impact than putting the facilities at the drier, Camp area.
Epstein was unsure when the item would be back before LA’s Recreation and Park Commission.
“We are currently just in the research stages,” she concluded.