Do monument signs represent a Gold Rushmore … or an advanced form of navel gazing?A local citizens group in June Lake is pushing CalTrans in an attempt to get a Gateway Monument sign built on the 395 at the South June Lake Loop Junction.
“A Gateway Monument is defined as any freestanding structure or sign, nonintegral or nonrequired highway feature that will communicate the name of a Local Entity,” according to the CalTrans guidelines for Gateway Monuments. If you’re still confused, just look at the Gateway Monument signs as you head into Mammoth on Highway 203.
Alice Suszynski, a long-time June Lake resident, is the ringleader of the group attempting this project. “We feel that people don’t even know about June; we have to rectify that,” she said on Monday. But, “we are still in the process of trying to figure out if we can do what we want,” she said.
Suszynski, along with Rick McCoy, Dorothy Burdette and Tim Alpers, met with CalTrans last Friday to discuss location placement and were told they could build the Gateway Monument on highway 158 but not the 395. “We want people to make the turn, not tell them where they are going after they are already there,” she said. Working with Caltrans is like dealing with “molasses in January,” according to Susyniski. “We just have to get past the no to get to the yes.”
Determined, Suszynski went to the Local Transportation Commission (LTC) meeting on Monday to present her plan and the issues she’s running into with CalTrans. She was not on the agenda for the meeting and spoke during public comment. She said LTC members were “scratching their heads, probably thinking, why would anybody want to take this on?” But they agreed to put it on the agenda for the March meeting.
The community of June Lake seems to be on board with Suszynski’s plans. “I’ve been getting nothing but positive reaction … everyone thinks it’s a long time coming,” she said.
The Sheet called local businesses and residents to get some feedback on the proposal. Most people had heard rumors of the project, but didn’t know much detail. Some hadn’t even heard of the plans. The general consensus was that this is a worthwhile attempt to get more business in June Lake.
Linda Biederman, a resident of June Lake for 20 years and a realtor at June Lake Properties said: “People drive by and never realize what a gem there is tucked back here in the Sierras.”
“There is a sign already,” said 30 year resident Ann Harslem, referring to the June Lake Village sign as you’re heading northbound 2 miles south of the 158 Junction, tucked back into the trees. “But I’m not opposed to making something more appropriate.”
Jon Coats of Fern Creek Lodge said he hopes, “it would open people’s eyes, such as the foreign tourists, that there’s a town back here.” He said he’s willing to donate to Suszyniski’s fundraising efforts, but he wants “Something spectacular and not mediocre that we could draw people in with.”
Leah Rosnau, another June Lake resident said, “I agree with the thought but I don’t know what it can say to help get people here besides ‘come in here, you won’t regret it.’”
Suszynski doesn’t know how much the Gateway Monument signs will cost and wants to get some of the big questions answered before she does. It will take an engineer, whuch can be pricy, and there are permits to apply for. But she’s hoping for donations from citizens, such as artists and welders, to help minimize the costs. There are grant opportunities for such projects and may even be some Mono County funds available. Suszynski wants to fundraise for the project over the summer at events such as the beer festival. She also said she will put collection buckets in every store in June Lake.
Whatever ends up happening, Suszynski promised the gateway monuments will cost “a lot less than the ones in Mammoth.” She also promised the Gateway Monuments will be “tasteful” and not have the same “grandeur” as Mammoth’s.