Recently, consultant Carl Ribaudo of Strategic Marketing Group told members of the Mono County Film and Tourism Commission that tourism needs to grow to develop the economy in the County.
Trails may play a key role in this growth.
According to Economic Development Manager, Alicia Vennos, 55 percent of the County’s summer visitors come to hike, while 46 percent come to fish.
As Mono County Supervisor Larry Johnston asked rhetorically during a June Board meeting, “We put a lot [of money] into fishing, why aren’t we putting at least as much into trails?”
At least one County trails group is trying to do its part to bring funds to the trail coffers.
The June Lake Trails Committee, which held its annual Trails Day on June 22, is working to raise $5,000 in the next year.
“The June Lake Trails Committee is the most active County trails group,” said County Associate Planner, Heather deBethizy.
Chairperson of the June Lake Trails Committee, Jil Stark agreed, pointing out that 42 people showed up to the June 22 Trails Day.
The June Lake Trails Plan started in 2002, according to Stark. She credits the assistance of Mono County, specifically former County employee and current Supervisor Johnston with helping to get it off the ground. In an interview with The Sheet, Stark called Johnston the “godfather of the June Lake trails.”
Stark, herself, has also played a major role in trail development in June Lake. When asked how she became the Chairperson, she replied, “The County had hired a consultant to review trails. There was a lot of outcry [about the results] and I was one of the people [making a ruckus]. The CAO at the time told me that if I had so much to say I should run it [the Committee].”
The Committee, and in large part, Stark, is responsible for the Gull Lake Trail, which was realigned three years ago.
“There was a trail there already, but it went in front of the Forest Service cabins. We wanted to move it behind the cabins,” Stark said.
The task was accomplished within a year — lightening speed in the trails world where oftentimes, bureaucratic hoops slow the process down for years.
“It was a fluke,” Stark said. “I didn’t know all of the Forest Service’s rules and restrictions.” She basically wore former Deputy District Ranger Mike Schlafmann down until he agreed to let her do what she wanted.
“Now that I know the rules, things have slowed down a bit,” said Stark with a twinkle in her eye. But that doesn’t mean the Committee doesn’t still plan to get a lot accomplished. It is raising money to fund the Down Canyon Trail. The plan is to take the Gull Lake Trail from the Gull Lake Campground to the June Mountain Ski Area parking lot, to the Double Eagle, and then from the Double Eagle to the Silver Lake Resort.
Stark said that last part of the trail would be the most expensive.
“I’m a doer and I want trails before I die, but I understand that it needs some planning,” she said.
The group has teamed up with Friends of the Inyo, which is letting them use its 501c 3 status to raise money. FOI, as well as the June Lake Chamber of Commerce, also helped the Trails Committee create a map brochure of the Gull Lake Trail and surrounding attractions. These maps are being sent out with donation request letters.
“We’re not like Mammoth which has tax money to support trails,” Stark said. “We are dependent on the County, the Forest Service and donations.”
The fundraising effort currently underway is a first for the June Lake Trails Committee.
Other communities around the County are also beginning to jump on the trails bandwagon.
“America is waking up to its health issues,” Stark said. “Being able to advertise trails is huge.”
She added that an emphasis needed to be put on trails for families and older people.
“June Lake is perfect for this,” Stark said.