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Dennis Rottner is Mammoth's Go-Go Gadget Man in parks

June 6, 2011

Dennis Rottner in his office off Commerce Drive, great mountain view through the window. Times photo/George Shirk

This has been a bearcat of a spring for Dennis Rottner.

Things are all busted up all over town. Broken water pipes in the parks. Wrecked fences, debris from the hard winter all over the place. Snow in all the wrong places, high wind on all the wrong days.

And yet …

The town’s longtime superintendent of parks somehow, impossibly, got the Whitmore ball field ready for high school baseball and the Whitmore pool ready for the swim team.

This weekend, in spite of Mammoth’s tough winter and cold spring, the tennis courts at Community Center Park are to open.

It has been miracle after miracle.

“What Dennis has been able to do is amazing to me,” said Mammoth Public Works Director Ray Jarvis. Jarvis works closely with Rottner on emergency fix-its as well as routine maintenance and upkeep.

“He knows Mammoth’s parks inside out, and I appreciate the heck out of the job he does,” Jarvis said.

“There are thousands of moving parts out there, and it takes supreme organization to do that.
“I’m sure glad he’s around."

So too is Stuart Brown, the town’s recreation director who oversees everything from Little League to AYSO soccer. Brown needs Rottner as the Lone Ranger needed Tonto, or as Yogi Bear needed Boo-Boo. Without him, it’s toast for the parks.

“Dennis is the go-go gadget man of Mammoth Lakes,” Brown said. “Dennis epitomizes resourcefulness - few people can do so much with so little.”

Rottner himself might very well agree with that, but he brushes it off with aplomb.

At 51, he has a trim, athletic build that speaks of a man who prefers the outdoors life. He has an affable personality that has worked well for him ever since he came to Mammoth in 1984 as a snowplow man.

“I love being outdoors,” he said last Tuesday, as the wind howled outside his office off Commerce Drive.
“It’s hard work, but when you’re this busy every day, the hours just fly by.”

Rottner is not, by nature or history, a Mammoth man. Rather, he is a lifelong resident of Bishop. His wife Cindi is a three-generation Bishopite. They have lived in the same house there for decades, and he said he wouldn’t consider moving. Their two children are grown up and out of the house, and he said one grandchild adds warmth to their situation.

He makes the commute to and fro, every day, giving him time to lay out his day in the morning, and review the day in the evening.

This spring, he said, there is a lot to review.

“This spring? We’re still on it.

“The good thing about it is that it’s given us a little more time. The demand hasn’t jumped on us all at once, because people are still dealing with a lot of snow in their yards.

“So they know what we’re going through. If we can get it [a facility or a park] open, we might be a day or two late, but this year has just been tough.

“We water one day and the next day it’s freezing, so we’re turning water on and off. We have broken pipes. There are a lot of things that are broken, one way or another.”

On this particular day, Rottner and his three-man crew were to put up windscreens around the Whitmore pool and the ball fields.

Fat chance.

The wind was so strong that putting up a windscreen would have been as sensible as repairing a roof during a rainstorm. It wasn’t going to happen.

In the shop was a banner sign advertising next week’s Town Cleanup for the Memorial Day celebrants. That didn’t make it up either, on account of wind and (!) snow.

Rottner said he takes it all in stride. Since 1984 he’s pretty much seen it all.

“Winter actually was good,” he said, “because it didn’t happen all at once. The problem has been that it has just kept going.

“We had a nice break in January and February, and we might have said, ‘OK, I guess winter’s over.’

“Now it’s still going and we’re not seeing the thaw. We’re waiting for Mammoth Creek to start coming up and we’ve moved the benches away from the creek and are preparing for a hard runoff.”

But it isn’t happening yet.

When it does happen, Rottner and his crew will jump into action, as they have for many years.
When summer finally arrives, he will move into high gear.

“I don’t think people realize how much we have,” he said. “We have all our different parks and facilities, but we also have special events; we offer assistance for whatever’s going on.

“For the Fourth of July Parade, we set all the PA locations for the Chamber and the judges, and we set up Mammoth Creek Park for the Pops concert, and give assistance to the Crowley Lake fireworks.

“Whenever there’s an event, people need tables or chairs or something, like, for example, orange fencing. There’s always something.”

It takes a lot of organizing.

Rottner’s office has a meticulous whiteboard of upcoming tasks. His office is almost military in its organization.

Brown, for one among many, said he feels grateful for Rottner’s organization and commitment.

“Whether he’s at the pool fixing the aging pump and leaking pool,” Brown said, “or painting the ice, repairing the soccer fields or swings at the park, the Town of Mammoth Lakes is extremely fortunate to have Dennis as our advocate and park champion.”

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