On Tuesday, as the Mono County Board of Supervisors prepared to send a letter to Inyo National Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta regarding June Mountain and the Forest Service’s letter of non-compliance to Mammoth Mountain, Forest Service District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge stepped up to the podium.
Regelbrugge announced that the Forest Service’s letter of non-compliance had been sent to MMSA on Friday, Sept. 28. The letter is the legal document stating that MMSA is not in compliance with its FS special use permit because it is not operating June Mountain this winter.
On Wednesday, Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory told The Sheet that the letter had been received.
“Our next steps will be to respond to the request for plans,” Gregory said. There are two plans being requested, he said. The first is a winter plan, which some have described as the “non-operating plan” but which Gregory described as the “plan for operations in the case of suspended operations.”
The second plan is a milestone one for how MMSA will come back into compliance and operate June Mountain successfully into the future.
“The process of revocation is a long-term thing,” Regelbrugge told The Sheet on Thursday. “Nothing will change with the permit in the short-term while we wait for MMSA’s plans.”
Supervisor Vikki Bauer added on Tuesday that MMSA’s first right of refusal on the Rodeo Grounds property expires in March, but Gregory stated that the first right of refusal does not have an expiration date.
And while MMSA works on its plans, the June Lake community continues to work on plans of its own.
Community members, as well as members of the Mono County Tourism and Film Commission and the Mono County Economic Development Department attended Tuesday’s meeting to present and defend, if necessary, their plans for using the $100,000 granted to the community by the County.
After some recent back and forth between a large portion of the community and a few June Lake Chamber members, including Supervisor Bauer, those presenting may not have known what to expect, especially since Supervisor Hap Hazard had suggested a few weeks ago that some of the money be taken back.
Commission Chair Jimmy Little started the conversation off by explaining to the Board that the overall plan for the money “is not polished. The details still need to be worked out, but it’s a package. We’re trying to provide an experience, not just a bridge.”
Hazard was impressed by the group’s determination to reinvent itself outside of a ski area.
“Independence from the Mountain is your long-term survival,” he expressed.
Supervisor Bauer, who was in the middle of the Chamber storm a few weeks ago, clarified her position.
“Thank you all for your work,” she said. “The press has not been kind to me lately, but I’m not attacking this work. We just have a fundamental difference of opinion because I think that part of the money should be used for a long-term solution. The talk today is losing focus, which needs to be on reopening June Mountain. The long-term plan needs a ski area and the right development on the Rodeo Grounds.”
Double Eagle co-owner and June Lake Revitalization Committee member Connie Black said that there is a group within the Committee dedicated to finding a buyer and is “aggressively working on this issue.”
“We’re on the same page with this,” Black said to Bauer.
Ralph Lockhart, Double Eagle owner with Black and another member of the Committee added that discussions have been held with Carl Williams (former June Mountain General Manager) regarding June Mountain priorities. According to Williams, snowmaking is a priority for success at June Mountain. Water will be critical to this and to any development on the Rodeo Grounds and needs to be found.
In the short-term, however, the community plans to move forward with its marketing, events and transportation plans.
As part of these plans the community has been trying to find places to expand the opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and other non-downhill snow experiences. Many of the options, however, have been struck down. The only place remaining on the table for expansion of these activities is down canyon on 31.5 acres of the Double Eagle property, which then connects to 30 or 40 acres of Forest Service land, according to Lockhart.
Lockhart and Black are exploring the possibility of having the Double Eagle spend the money for a groomer (approximately $18,000), as well as the gas, drivers and maintenance (approximately $15,000) required. They requested that $5,000 from the County’s $100,000 potentially be earmarked to pay them back for a small portion of their investment. However, Lockhart stated on Tuesday that if another option became viable for the $5,000, or if the reimbursement idea were unpopular the idea would be taken off the table.
While the Supervisors were supportive of Double Eagle’s willingness to pitch in, the idea raised several questions.
First, there was a concern over liability issues that may be connected to the reimbursement of the $5,000. Bauer and Supervisor Tim Hansen pointed out that people wanting to access the area from Double Eagle would need to walk along the highway about 100 yards.
Hansen, an ex-snowplow operator, pointed out that on that segment of Hwy 158, the plows are going pretty fast.
“I’m not saying anything negative, and I applaud the Double Eagle for pitching in, but it needs to be brought up as a liability if we reimburse the $5,000,” Hansen said.
Lockhart said the $5,000 reimbursement could be pulled off the table if it were a liability issue.
The other concern from the Board was the potential of overwhelming residents on Nevada Street if recreationists are looking to find parking to access the area.
“I like the idea of Double Eagle stepping up and creating a whole new avenue, but we have to try to find a balance from the County side,” Hazard said. “Nevada Street will be the most convenient place for people to park if they are not going to your place [Double Eagle]. We need to try to avoid a conflict.”
County Counsel Marshall Rudolph, however, pointed out that Nevada Street is not a County road.
“It’s a private road and we don’t have control over it, so it’s not an issue the County would get involved with,” Rudolph explained.
“What happens if the residents decide to make it gated,” Hazard asked.
“They could do that,” Rudolph responded, “and the County would have to choose whether or not to get involved.”
Lockhart added that it was his understanding that the first part of Nevada Street was a private road, but then the majority of it became a Forest Service road.
“That street is already being used to access the Forest Service meadow that was mentioned,” Lockhart added, which seemed to allay Hazard’s concerns.
“I just don’t want to throw Nevada Street under the bus, but if it’s already being used, then it’s not such a problem,” Hazard said.
Johnston had a different take on the issue. “I hope we do have a Nevada Street problem because that means there’s a lot of people there,” he said.
Black added that the Revitalization Committee did hold a meeting with the Nevada Street residents the Friday before the Board meeting. Following that meeting, she said that there were only two residents that she knew of that were still in opposition to the idea.
The majority of the Board seemed pleased with the plan at this point.
“This is what happens when you trust people to act in their own best interest,” Johnston said. “There are some things I don’t like [in the plan] but I’m not going to nitpick it.”
“The community is doing a god job,” Hansen added. “We shouldn’t micromanage them. Problems will be worked out as we go along.”
Bauer seemed upset at the end of the discussion and did not return to the meeting after lunch.