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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, March 25, 2011

March 29, 2011

TENNEY: ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE FOR GATEWAY COMMUNITY PROJECT
Contrary to Mammoth Times report (March 18, 2011), “Tenney receives lukewarm response to Gateway Monument” and “[she] got a tepid – at best – response,” I’ve found the response overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic since December 15 when I volunteered to organize the Mammoth Gateway Community Project and complete it by November.
The Mono County Board of Supervisors, impressed with the project’s design and true “community” effort, voted 5-0 on March 15 in favor of placing the monument sign on County property south of Hwy. 203.
On March 16, Town Council agreed to provide in-kind support by doing engineering work. Council urged me to bring back my other in-kind requests in early April.

With news of the project traveling fast, many locals have offered advice, expertise, labor and materials. Designer Larry Walker volunteered many hours to design a monument worthy of our spectacular surroundings. Architect Bruce Woodward offered to do construction drawings. Mammoth Mountain’s Rusty Gregory told me, “The Mountain is very supportive of the project.”

Longtime local contractor Buck Wahl volunteered to supervise construction of the support structure. Contractor Dan Whitmore offered to supervise the foundation and rock work. Snowcreek developer Chuck Lande said he will provide heavy equipment, labor and even some precious topsoil.

Another local, who watched my March 16 presentation to Council on TV, e-mailed me a dozen photos of national park entrance monuments (Larry’s design has them all beat!), a letter of support and $1,000 pledge to kick off fund raising. (All donations go through the 501c3 Mammoth Community Foundation.)

Seems I’m not the only one who thinks we live at the epicenter of a mountain paradise, one that needs a worthy gateway. The rugged design, inspired by Crystal Crag, is classic and timeless. Good thing, too, since it’s planned for a hundred-years-plus lifespan.

Considering Mammoth’s recent bad press, it’s absolutely critical that we show our visitors we’re not only still here, we’re surviving and thriving. The impressive monument with Mammoth Mountain and Mammoth Crest in the background will be a photo opp. tweeted and Facebooked around the world. Free marketing!
Elizabeth Tenney
Mammoth Lakes

LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US!
I’ve been a driver for the Mammoth Area Shuttle (white buses) for 12 winters since the late ’80s, and have been very proud – as have countless other drivers past and present, and our management – to provide the best, safest, most reliable and helpful service possible for visitors and residents alike.

A critical part of our service is ease of use – clear, coordinated information, good signage, safe, recognizable bus stops – a system that encourages use. Mammoth’s visitors and newcomers are largely unfamiliar with using public transit, something drivers see manifested daily, and so it is imperative for it to be user friendly. We have been operating the system for decades now, and through extensive, ongoing fine tuning have developed methods that work wonderfully, tailoring the operation to the community’s particularities and safety issues as they pertain to demographics and climate.

This year we have seen considerable confusion and frustration with those new to Mammoth, due unfortunately to the Town’s decision to re-invent a functional wheel, as it were.

First, their choice to place only blue signs at stops regardless of the route (as most know, the routes are color-named, a system that works beautifully, simple and clear to understand on maps and placards, especially for those new who don’t know our place-names) has led to much confusion/frustration; even if only in winters when M.A.S. is running, colored signs should be added.

Second, posted maps at the stops are typically too small and/or opaque or dirty to be legible, something commented frequently upon, and often poorly lit.

Third, having ALL stops well lit and ideally sheltered, considering our winter weather, I think is crucial. People are less inclined to wait for a bus if the weather is nasty, and more inclined to drive, increasing risk and traffic hassles for everyone; women and kids, especially, are at risk using dark stops at night, a danger for them and a liability.
Last, maintaining stops well and promptly, including plowing out expediently during snowy spells, will keep them MUCH safer for both riders and drivers – less stopping in lanes and standing on streets – and foster better usage.

Again, none of us should be discouraging use, for any number of good reasons. We have a system that is an important, well-used and well-recognized “selling point” for living in and visiting Mammoth; all concerned need to keep in mind that exquisite public and customer service can’t be afterthoughts for a community economically based on tourism and lifestyle.

I’d like to remind residents to keep up the thoughtfulness and courtesy while driving around the town and ski area. We are very well-trained and do our best to exercise both patience and manners while operating our buses; we ask the same from you. We are entrusted equally with the well being of our riders, other drivers (and their passengers) and pedestrians. We drivers aren’t always perfect, but as a unit, which includes our very capable management, indeed focus very hard CONSTANTLY on safety and customer/community service, which includes conservative and mannerly driving.

Please allow us all courtesies to make a challenging, at times stressful and hazardous but necessary job in difficult conditions that much easier and safer. I hope we can keep this transit system as highly functional and beneficial as possible, and as it has been.
Tom Richards
Mammoth Lakes

GREAT NORDIC SEASON
Mammoth Nordic Junior Team thanks all the families who helped at every race, practice and event volunteering time and many, many baked goods. The Team also owes its success to the following supporters: Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center, Eastern Sierra Nordic Ski Associations, Brian’s Bicycles and Cross Country Skis, Mammoth Mountain Junior Race Program and Mammoth Unified School District. Thank you for a great winter!
Alana Levin
Nancy Fiddler
Robin Morning
Jim Barnes

STOP CONGRESS FROM CUTTING FUNDING
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The current Congress in our country is planning on decreasing the funding for the Community Services Block Grants that support organizations serving the lowest income families in our midst.

IMACA Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action) manages this money in Inyo and Mono counties serving families from Tecopa to Topaz.

It provides 655 residents and their families with access to commodities, a monthly food distribution as well as running bimonthly food pantries in Bishop and Lone Pine, providing energy assistance and weatherization services to more than 700 families each year. And housing assistance is provided to 88 seniors and low income families.

Most of IMACA’s clients are seniors and/or disabled, families unable to find full-time work or the unemployed.

I work with one- and two-member families whose total income is $850.
Minnesota Senator Al Franken pointed out in December, “during the past 20 years, 56 percent of all income growth went to the top one percent of households. Even more unbelievable, one third of all income growth went to just the top one tenth of one percent. Some people are definitely not broke, but we can’t raise their taxes.“

But we can cut funding for our disabled, seniors and low income families.
I’m ashamed; If you are, call your congressional representatives about this.
Carolyn Balliet
Mammoth Lakes

WHAT VALUE DO WE PLACE ON WILDLIFE AND WILDERNESS
The spring equinox was March 20 and so we are entering into that season when birds and wildlife of the Eastern Sierra and the lands that are to the east of the mountains, the sagebrush/scrub-brush habitat of the Great Basin, begin their yearly biological movement to mate, establish nesting and breeding territories, and raise their young in peace and contentment.

This is the season of the Greater Sage Grouse of California. Soon the sage grouse males will begin congregating on their ancestral lekking grounds, which are located in the sage/scrub habitat of the Great Basin, east of the Sierra Nevada range. These leks are an integral part of the sage grouse biology and are where mating usually takes place, as the males compete with each other for the right to mate with the females that usually approach the leks in the morning.

Yet there appears to be a dark cloud on the horizon. This dark cloud is Cougar Gold Mine and the Mono County supervisors. It is very interesting to note that at one of the most sensitive times of year for the declining population of California Greater Sage Grouse, the Cougar Gold Mine is making a play for rights to mine gold near one of the Sage Grouse leks. According to my information, this mine is a short 2.5 miles away from the primary lek in the Bodie Hills WSA (wilderness study area).
Which is more important to our area: a gold-mining operation, or protecting the birds and wildlife that have evolved over millennia to live and prosper in a harsh but beautiful environment, becoming highly specialized to feeding and sustaining themselves on sage bushes?

People come many miles to see the sage grouse in California’s Great Basin. They spend money to stay in Lee Vining and Mammoth Lakes so they can go out in the early morning to view the sage grouse on their leks in the spring. I don’t know anyone who will spend that much time, money or effort to see the Cougar Gold Mine or the degradation of habitat they will bring to Bodie Hills if they are allowed to mine. Quoting from an article by the Natural Resources Conservation Service let me list the threats to sage grouse habitat:

“The destruction and fragmentation of sagebrush habitat represents the largest threat to remaining sage-grouse populations. Factors contributing to habitat degradation include alteration of historical fire regimes, conversion of land to farming or intensive livestock forage production, water developments, use of herbicides and pesticides, establishment of invasive species, urbanization, energy development, and mineral extraction.” (BLM 2003, Connelly et al. 2004).
Furthermore, and I direct this to Hap Hazard and the Mono County Board of Supervisors,

“Potential impacts to sage grouse from mineral extraction activities, include habitat loss from mine and well construction, increased human activity including noise disturbances and mortality associated with evaporation ponds.” (BLM, 2003)

“Mineral development activities also lower water tables, which results in loss or reduction of herbaceous riparian vegetation used by sage grouse in late summer and fall. The roads, power lines and increased dust and noise associated with mine development can also be disruptive to sage grouse populations. Roads fragment habitat and create and avenue for the establishment of invasive species, power lines attract sage grouse predators and noise disturbances impede aural communication between males and females during the lekking season. Degradation of sagebrush habitat by mining activities usually occurs incrementally. The results are cumulative and, if severe enough, will result in abandonment of the areas impacted by mining activities” (Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2005)

I am hopeful that our wild lands will remain wild and be given the protection they so richly deserve.
Donna M. Willey
Mammoth Lakes

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