June Lake citizens’ group fails to gain support for land trade opposition

Community members mostly ‘tired of the whole thing’

A June Lake citizens’ group’s efforts to build support to oppose a land trade proposed by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area may be losing steam after a Tuesday night June Lake Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting left Committee  to Revitalize June Lake members dispirited.

“(Other) people are tired of the whole thing,” member Alice Suszynski said. “They don’t want to rock the boat.”

Suszynski and the rest of the group has been pressuring MMSA to give some kind of tangible commitment to do what CEO Rusty Gregory publicly said he would do at a meeting in April—re-open the June Mountain Ski Area this winter and in the next few years, build a new lift up the face of June Mountain, market June Mountain Ski Area effectively, and create snowmaking facilities on June Mountain.

 The group has said repeatedly that it does not trust Gregory and MMSA to be “good stewards of our public lands” (June Mountain is on federal land) given MMSA’s willingness to shut down June Mountain this past winter.

The group has lobbied state and local politicians to oppose a Congressional bill that would allow a land trade at the base of MMSA that Gregory has stated is critical to the future of Mammoth Mountain.

This week, Suszynski said the group has done all it can do, for now.

“We will see if the bill moves forward,” she said, noting the bill is in a House resources committee and is not advancing at this time.

Tim Alpers, June Lake’s supervisor, said he is going to advocate the county supervisors to support the land trade bill and a “recreation corridor” idea at a June 18 supervisor meeting.

For the past few months, he said, he has been going from community to community talking about and seeking input on a plan for growth—something he believes is the county’s only option for survival in a time of diminishing resources.

An increased emphasis on fishing county-wide, growing June Lake as a resort community, opening a successful June Mountain Ski Area, and other economic stimulus ideas make up the backbone of what he calls a “recreation corridor” plan.

The land trade, which will release more than a dozen acres of federal land at the base of Mammoth Mountain (where the Mammoth Mountain Inn is now) into private hands, is a critical part of such growth, Alpers said.

“We are facing a huge hit to the county in the next few years,” he said, citing a state-mandated replacement of county vehicles that will cost the county about $26 million by 2028.

“We have two landfills we need to close in the next decade and then monitor for the next 30 years; more millions of dollars,” Alpers said. “We have kicked these cans down the road too long and this board has to deal with them. We cannot cut services, we don’t have any reserves. We are going to have to grow our way out of this. There is no other way. The property tax allotment we get from Mammoth Lakes alone provides 80 percent of all of the costs we incur for all the services we provide to the residents of this county.”

It is thus critical that Mammoth does well in order for the county to do well, and the new development at the base of Mammoth Mountain will add $500 million to the tax rolls (according to MMSA, he said) and create 500 jobs during rebulding.

He said his plan includes holding MMSA accountable, through monitoring and other means, and that he is ready to take his plan to the full board on June 18, including a request that the board support the land trade.

He also said Suszynski and her group have been effective in an effort to do exactly what the group said it exists to do—revitalize June Mountain and June Lake—by triggering MMSA to make a public promise to rebuild and rebrand June Mountain.