The Mammoth Lakes Recreation (MLR) Steering Committee will shave off members and continue determining the shape of a future MLR entity after Town Council approved the continuation of the Steering Committee’s work at Wednesday night’s meeting.
In May, Council approved the formation of an MLR Steering Committee composed of more than 30 members from organizations including Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA), the U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Inyo, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA), Mammoth Lakes Foundation, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, Town Recreation Commission and Town Council, to discuss whether or not the Town could benefit from an independent MLR entity.
Participants met over the summer in a series of three, three-hour public workshops to question why an MLR entity might be more effective than the current municipal structure to ensure the Town meets its goals for recreational programs and projects. Workshop participants concluded that any MLR “should not diminish the function of municipal recreation,” summarized workshop leader Michael Ward, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer for HighBar Global Consulting.
The Town’s initial proposal to pursue an MLR sparked controversy, with some Mammoth residents speculating that an MLR would outsource all work currently performed by Town staff to a less transparent and efficient third party. However, the Steering Committee concluded in the final workshop in August that a hybrid approach would be best: pursuing an MLR entity while continuing to support and consider options for innovating municipal recreation.
Strategic Marketing Group workshop leader Carl Ribaudo urged the Council to accept the revised Steering Committee, which would include nine instead of more than 30 members, so that the Committee could begin “to review current municipal recreation services, so we understand what we’re preserving.” The nine members will represent the Town Council, Recreation Commission, Planning Commission, MMSA, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Eastside Velo, and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association. This new committee “will determine an organizational model for an MLR,” Ribaudo said, including an exploration of potential funding sources.
Although many in attendance at the Town Council meeting were in favor of this new Steering Committee and its goals, former Steering Committee member Pat Agnitch expressed concern as a resident about the transparency of future Committee meetings. “I just want to ensure that the process is transparent and unbiased,” she said. “I felt that limiting community comment until the last couple of minutes of a [Steering Committee] meeting was not appropriate. I think we can modify the process so it could be a little more interactive.”
Mammoth local Sandy Hogan agreed. “I’m hoping that perhaps the process can be made more inclusive and the public more involved,” she said. “Nobody wants to wait three hours for five minutes of comment.”
Juliana Olinka, Marketing Director for the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, addressed the Council as a private citizen, wondering about the absence of representation for arts and culture within the Steering Committee. “I didn’t see anyone representing the arts and culture community,” she said. She argued that theater, classical music, and jazz are all part of Mammoth Lakes recreation. “I suggest there be someone to represent that,” she said.
However, Councilmembers chose to approve the new Steering Committee as recommended by staff.
Steering Committee member Teri Stehlik offered her support for the process, and for the smaller Committee size. “We need to end the fractured delivery of recreational opportunities,” she said. “I think we need to have a smaller committee to get those ideas down and move forward, but I don’t think anybody is looking at doing something behind closed doors.”
Steering Committee member Colin Fernie agreed. “We have not achieved many of the high priorities [in RecStrats],” he said. “We need to think about which entity should and can do the best job of implementing these goals.”
“I want to emphasize that no decisions have been made yet,” added Steering Committee member Betsy Truax. “Nothing has been set in stone. I don’t think there are any preconceived notions about what this [MLR] will be.” The Council approved the continuation of the MLR Steering Committee process 4-0. Dates for the second phase of workshops are yet to be determined.