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Forest, Town, push back on trails proposal

April 23, 2013

 

Trails group suggests NGO management

Mammoth’s trails system, much of which lies within the Inyo National Forest, would be managed by a non-governmental organization (NGO) under a proposal by the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation.

The Inyo’s response: Fat chance.

The Town’s response: Ditto.

Rather, both the town and the forest service indicated things were just fine the way they are, with the Mammoth Lakes Trails System Coordinating Committee (MLTSCC) managing the trail network.

“Since 2011,” wrote Mammoth District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge in a lengthy letter to Mammoth Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, “the Inyo National forest has committed many hours of staff time, my time and the Forest Supervisor’s time to discuss and establish a new partnership with the Town of Mammoth Lakes.

“…I am satisfied with the existing structure of the Mammoth Lakes Trail System Coordinating Committee (MLTSCC) as well as the staff-to-staff relationship that has resulted in several proposals that are currently moving forward.”

Later, Regelbrugge said in his letter that a third-party NGO would require more people, and additional communication, coordination and costs than what currently exists.

“In conclusion,” he wrote, “I do not believe that an NGO as proposed by MLTPA is necessary or that it would be helpful in delivering the Mammoth Lakes Trail System as agreed to by the Inyo National Forest and Town of Mammoth Lakes. I question the utility, efficiency, effectiveness and purpose of a third party organization as proposed.”

An NGO, according to NGO.org, is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information.

As if to buttress the Regelbrugge’s argument against the formation of an NGO to manage trails and recreation in Mammoth, the town staff itself took a dim view of the idea, which was proposed, unsolicited, on Jan. 27.

“Overall, the town staff does not believe that the formation of a new NGO, as proposed by MLTPA, is warranted at this time,” concluded Recreation Manager Stuart Brown and Pubic Works Director Ray Jarvis, whose remarks were contained in an April 9 Recreation Commission staff report.

The MLTPA proposal, wrote Brown and Jarvis, “was submitted with the intent of addressing a perceived need to fill the void currently left unfilled by Town staff with regards to the planning and management of the Mammoth Lakes Trails System.”

Since then, however, both the town and the Inyo have discovered a new administrative pathway for the trails in the form of the MLTSCC, which is just over one year old.

Mammoth’s USFS recreation director, Jon Kazmierski, has a seat on the committee, as do Brown, citizen activist Sandy Hogan, Recreation Commissioners Bill Sauser and Sean Turner (chairman), along with former town planner Bill Taylor (vice-chair).

Mammoth is not a stranger in the world of NGOs. Mammoth Lakes Tourism, for example, is an NGO that operates outside of the strict town government, but has a myriad of ties to the town.

Both the rejection by the town staff and Regelbrugge of the trails system being put under the administration of an NGO did not put the idea to bed, however.

Recreation Commissioner Teri Stehlik strongly supported the idea in a letter that was read into the public record on April 7.

“While I appreciate the perspective and observations collectively being provided by the Town and the Inyo National Forest regarding the formation of an MLTS NGO,” she wrote, “I would like to offer a different option for our commission to consider and recommend: the formation of Mammoth Lakes Recreation.”

Stehlik presented a five-point rationale for the formation of Mammoth Lakes Recreation, including an argument “for an organization that can manage and program the new facilities and programs that are being developed through Measure R and U funds, including Whitmore Track, Mammoth Lakes Tail system, and a biathlon facility.”

Her motive, she said was from a “desire for making a bold, big and innovative change” in the way Mammoth thinks about recreation management.

“I would like to be clear,” she wrote. “This is about creating economic vitality and delivering a high quality of life for our community by establishing an entity that has the vision, desire and creativity to grow and sustain our recreation product.”

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