In a press release issued last Friday. the Mammoth Lakes Foundation Board of Directors said it will not proceed with a land lease or other agreement for the proposed National Wounded Warrior Center (NWWC) project currently spearheaded by Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES).
The proposed project, as originally conceived, was to be constructed on two acres of land owned by the Mammoth Lakes Foundation in close proximity to Mammoth’s Cerro Coso Community College campus.
Mammoth Lakes Foundation Board Chair Luan Mendel said the vote not to proceed was unanimous.
The decision comes as an unexpected and significant blow to Kathy Copeland, Executive Director of DSES, who nevertheless vowed to press on. “It’s time to regroup and ask the community for a new location – either in renovation of an existing hotel or a new land site. We’re still poised and ready to go. These men and women (Wounded Warriors) need us more than ever.”
DSES has raised $11.7 million towards construction of the NWWC.
In Friday’s press release, longtime MLF Board member Gary Myers is quoted as saying, “As a member of the MLF Board and a steward of its land I am unconvinced that this project will further our mission. I believe the project is very well intended and has honorable merit, but I don’t believe its successful outcome depends on the donation of this land.”
Melding mission and project has always been a challenge in
the MLF/NWWC marriage.
As former MLF Executive Director Evan Russell told The Sheet this week, for the partnership to work, it was predicated upon veterans being in Mammoth for long-term stays and enrolling at the college. But the Foundation Board expressed no public reservation about “mission clash” – until now.
In fact, the Foundation has been touting its partnership with DSES for years. Heck, it was one of (a more recent) former Executive Director Rich Boccia’s go-to applause lines.
Kathy Copeland acknowledged that the college doesn’t have a lot of curriculum which fits the veteran population, but, she maintained, “they never said we’d need 100% enrollment.”
Copeland estimates DSES spent countless hours of staff time, spent money on an architect …many resources were tapped figuring out how to make the site and program work.
Reading between the lines: So if Gary Myers is unconvinced the project would further the mission, it would have helped if he’d expressed that unequivocally six or seven years ago.
Would’ve saved a lot of time, energy and heartache.
But Dave McCoy has passed on. Covid has arrived. And the Foundation is apparently feeling the pinch.
Earlier this year, the Foundation similarly jettisoned Artistic Director Shira Dubrovner, its cultural programming and Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theater.
“My dad’s legacy of supporting higher education and the arts in the Eastern Sierra must remain the focus of the Foundation,” said Gary McCoy, MLF Board President and son of Dave and Roma McCoy in the press release. “The limited land owned by the Foundation is not only intended to provide for the longevity of the Foundation, but for the greatest possible overall benefit to the local community as outlined in the MLF mission statement.”
And as Luan Mendel pointed out this week, “support” of higher education and the arts does not mean “produce” or “provide.”
“We have a whole donor base which doesn’t care about the cultural enrichment aspect,” she elaborated. “They want the higher education component.”
A goal of the Foundation moving forward, she said, is to endow scholarships so as to help students finish their educations once they move on from Cerro Coso.
According to the Foundation’s press release, “The Mammoth Lakes Foundation is currently supporting 36 students pursuing degrees and certificates at Cerro Coso this Fall semester, as well as providing partial housing scholarships to several students residing in the South Gateway Apartments.”
Mendel estimates that the Foundation spends about $1,000 apiece on these 36 students.
Kathy Copeland plans to explore options with Inyo County representatives in the coming week.