Economic Stimulus Council (ESC) members had event locations on the brain as they began their Oct. 20 meeting, giving up a number of agenda items in favor of discussing how to move forward with a new events site at Mammoth Creek Park. As The Sheet reported in September, the ESC believes this is the most attractive site for a new 8,000-10,000-person venue. That opinion ruffled the feathers of Recreation Commissioners who felt they should have been kept in the loop. Recreation Commissioner Sean Turner was on hand at Thursday’s ESC meeting to explain his position: “I wouldn’t want to move my established event [Bluesapalooza] to that site, but I’d certainly be willing to invest in a new event there. You just have to make sure you’re winning over the right advocates.”
ESC members appreciated Commissioner Turner’s feedback, but voiced their concern about a proposed $60,000 event feasibility study that is expected to come forward as a Town Measure R fall application. The ESC worried that a feasibility study would drain much-needed funds from the town, and slow down the site selection process. “I voted on that [application],” Commissioner Turner said, maintaining its necessity, “but I’d like to have that study for a hell of a lot less.”
Planning Commissioner Rhonda Duggan suggested that, rather than rely initially on a costly feasibility study the town should reference previous studies and do their own homework “before we send [a project] to anyone to be analyzed.”
As a way to move forward with that idea, Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Lehman suggested that “this group should pull together a meeting with the Recreation Commission and the Events Coalition” to discuss the Mammoth Creek Park and other event venue locations. Commissioner Turner, also a part of the Events Coalition, said, “Heck, just brief the Rec Commission. Then just take our input from the Events Coalition. You don’t want too many chefs in the kitchen to push this forward.” ESC members agreed that an information sharing session among all interested groups was necessary, and after that, a special use permit application to the Forest Service via the Town.
In order to get that permit application submitted, Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw observed, “Maybe the call to action is we want to hold a new event next year and we need a venue for that event.” So ESC members will be brainstorming a possible new event, with a narrow window to push it forward for spring 2012.
Commissioner Duggan emphasized at the end of the meeting that the ESC is still committed to advancing projects that will generate revenue, not “passion projects.” “Passion is not a revenue,” referring in part to a presentation from Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles at the beginning of the meeting on the status of the Lakes Basin. Searles’ opinion was that the Town should take over Forest Service duties like campground and bathroom maintenance. “To my frustration, the toilets are locked with a month left of fishing season, and people can’t get into any of the campgrounds because they’re barricaded shut,” he said. “There could be a big chunk of change in inviting people here and making them feel comfortable.”
However, Commissioner Duggan saw the Town taking over Forest Service responsibilities as a non revenue-generating burden. “We may be unpopular in this [view],” she said, “but we’ve got to find some issues to have a consensus on.”
The Economic Stimulus Council will be reaching out to the Events Coalition for a meeting in the coming two weeks. The next ESC meeting will be Nov. 14.