Bridgeport visitor center supported

After years of wrangling over location and scope, players draft first plan

Bridgeport may get a brand new high-tech, multi-use, multi-agency visitor center sometime in the next few years after years of arguments and disagreements finally gave way to a new spirit of cooperation.

Even better, according to a report by the organizers and proposed anchor tenants, there is a clear consensus that the new facility will be as much a cultural center as an interpretive center; a place for music, art and even an artist in residence.

It may even host a new medical clinic, screened and designed to protect privacy, but adding vibrancy and permanence to the new building.

Although the project is still in the conceptual planning stages, the fact that it has support from all of the major players in the area is a big step forward, according to Mono County planner Wendy Sugimura, who presented a comprehensive “Bridgeport Facilities Plan” to the county supervisors Tuesday, May 14.

The new visitor center and/or clinic will be located along Main Street, possibly at the former Buster’s Market site at the northwest end of Bridgeport, although other sites are also still on the table.

The need for such a facility is clear, Sugimura said, citing a recent study done to analyze the community’s needs.

The old medical clinic in the community was shut down years ago, and the old, 16,000-square foot building is now mostly empty.

But due to what is called the “Bridgeport factor”—a 25 percent increase in the cost of maintenance for all buildings due to the extreme climate of the Bridgeport Valley—and age, the building still has to be heated all year, costing the county about $92,000 a year.

That cost could be rolled into another facility, the supervisors noted, if the old building cannot be refurbished.

The report Sugimura cited noted that the Humboldt-Toiyabe U.S. Forest Service, Bridgeport Indian Tribe, Bodie Foundation, Bureau of Land Management, Caltrans, the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Mammoth Hospital, Mono County, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, and Bodie State Park are all interested and participating in plans for the new visitor center.

Other county facilities in the valley, including the sheriff’s department, will also be reviewed.

The supervisors took no action on the item, but elements within the plan will come before the board over the next few months.