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One of the Eastern Sierra’s most beloved landmarks, the Green Church, may soon change ownership after the University of California builds a new lecture and classroom facility at its existing Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL) land south of Convict Lake.
The issue is that the Green Church is located near the Mammoth Yosemite Airport, which has a proposed expansion on tap, although not yet completed.
Should that expansion occur, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules would likely prohibit “intensive use” at the church due to safety concerns.
That would eliminate the Green Church lectures and other large public gatherings, said SNARL’s manager Dan Dawson.
The threat of losing the Green Church as a lecture space prompted him to get the funding to build a new place to hold SNARL lectures, with final completion of the new facility expected next year in time for the spring lecture series.
Tearing down the Green Church, located at the intersection of Benton Crossing Road and U.S. 395 south of Mammoth, is not a likely option however, Dawson said to the Mammoth Lakes Town Council on Oct. 16.
“It would likely be a political nightmare if we had to tear it down,” he said, noting the importance of the church to locals and visitors alike.
What’s more likely to happen is transferring ownership of the church to the Town of Mammoth Lakes for a very nominal fee.
“We can’t give it away under the University of California rules (regarding gifts) and we can’t make a profit off it under the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lease,” he said, “so I propose selling it to the Town of Mammoth Lakes for a token amount.”
Dawson said he has already been in talks with the town staff about transferring the church and that they have been considering the idea.
Town staff did not return phone calls before press time.
The most likely outcome is the town could incorporate the church into the Whitmore area lease it already has, under a process that allows a “small administrative adjustment” to DWP leases, Dawson said.
The issue will go before the town council as an agenda item on Nov. 5.