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Steve Searles is irked.
Itâ€™s not the wildlife which is making his spine crawl but rather the decision of a certain public agency to shut down and lock up public facilities in the Lakes Basin.
Searles spoke in public comment as a private citizen at Wednesdayâ€™s Town Of Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting regarding his frustration on behalf of recent visitors to the area in question. Working the area seven days a week, Searles sees it all and hears it all from the visitors coming to enjoy the fall. Some of those visitors are none too pleased when theyâ€™ve gone to the Lakes Basin and the only place available to use the toilet is behind a Jeffrey pine.
It appears as though the campgrounds have been shut for the season, including access to the bathrooms. Even the large bear-proof trash dumpsters were bolted shut.
â€śPeople have been defecating in the forest and leaving their garbage out which is a danger to the wildlife,â€ť Searles said. â€śTo be up there day after day with no basic facilities is ridiculous. If I came up there from out of town with no public restrooms to use, I wouldnâ€™t come back. We are not using the area in the Lakes Basin how we should be using it. Itâ€™s a potential that is being wasted this time of the year.â€ť
The short end of the stick allegedly came from the budget-challenged U.S. Forest Service hiring hosts who donâ€™t want to be bothered by dealing with more visitors to the area after a busy summer, so they locked everything up.
â€śIt seems as though the folks who run the campgrounds on behalf of the USFS have shirked their responsibilities,â€ť Searles said.
If there continues to be a big push to get visitors to Mammoth Lakes during the shoulder season, then those visitors will need a place to go when nature calls â€¦ and that shouldnâ€™t mean they should go â€śin nature.â€ť
Councilman Skip Harvey suggested that the issue be put on the agenda of the upcoming Town/County Liaison meeting. He is especially concerned because if in fact the public visiting the Lakes Basin are using the forest as their personal toilet, the water quality in the Lakes Basin may be at risk.