'Camp Like a Pro' Campaign Takes Off; Yes This Includes 'Poo Like a Pro!'

By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

Hoping to head off another summer of scattered trash, escaped campfires, human feces in places where no human feces should be and overall camping chaos, a group of Eastern Sierra locals have a new plan to show visitors how to “Camp like a Pro” almost ready to go.
The group, formed in February in response to worries that the summer of 2021 could get even worse, especially given the dry conditions, told about 200 people at Tuesday’s “Dispersed Camping Town Hall” Zoom meeting that they have a “five-point plan” to attack the issue, starting now (“dispersed camping” means any camping outside of developed campground and it is legal in the vast majority - but not all - of the Eastern Sierra’s federal lands. Places it is not legal include “buffer” areas around communities, such as a several-mile-wide no-camping buffer area much of the Town of Mammoth, and other areas of concern).
The new, five-point plan was created to address these five main areas: Education; Mapping; Infrastructure: Stewardship; Enforcement.
1) The new Education plan is a mass media effort to educate people how to “Camp Like a Pro;” i.e. how to choose a campsite, how to put out a campfire where they are still allowed (only in developed campgrounds in developed campfire rings as of May 24), how to “Poop Like a Pro,” which means how to stop leaving human feces and toilet paper festooned on local bushes and rocks, and much more.
2) The Mapping plan effort has already created many maps that outline where camping is legal and where it is not; they are currently working on making these maps “live” and interactive, and creating paper maps as well.
3) The Stewardship plan effort aims to involve as many Eastern Sierra groups and locals as possible in taking care of the landscape that people are recreating on; cleaning up trash, working on trails, monitoring campfire rings and more.
4) The Infrastructure plan effort includes a comprehensive mapping project to outline the best places for new Porta Potties and garbage dumpster type facilities, and, a way to maintain them and fund them.
5) The Enforcement plan effort focuses on law enforcement related to camping; patrolling for fires, illegal camps, dangerous activity such as target shooting that could create a fire or harm another person and more.
At the Zoom meeting, all five areas were addressed in great detail and the panel also took questions from the public. Here are the more details related to each plan. The Times will also continue to cover this story in more detail as the summer season approaches.
Education: The subcommittee of about 20 participants from land management agencies and a wide range of visitor introducing organizations and small businesses in both Mono and Inyo counties, has a goal to “establish consistent effective messaging that educates the public on responsible safe dispersed camping practices and proactive stewardship of the landscape.” They found that a lot of information on how to camp exists, but it was not available in just one place and, they needed to be aware of trying to lecture people, because... it does not work.
“We... found ourselves kind of taking on this sort of lecturing tone,” said Alicia Vennos, with Mono County’s Tourism and Economic Development Department. “And of course, everyone knows, especially parents of teenagers, lecturing causes eyes to glaze over and you can basically say goodbye to your audience so we tried to lighten up the tone a bit and have some fun with the “Camp Like a Pro” theme. People mostly have an innate desire to do things right, and so we decided we needed to keep the tone light without detracting from the gravity of the message. So, first and foremost our education information is always to encourage people to please camp in a developed campground, that's our first message, we have over 160 campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra summer walk in summer are reserved in advance I know sometimes they're tough to get, but this is hands down the best way to have a positive camping experience while creating the least amount of stress and impact on our beautiful, and pristine landscapes.
“So then with respect to dispersed camping, if folks wish to camp outside a developed campground, we came up with the basic points that we wanted to get across,” she said. “And then finally, the ‘Number Two’ issue,” she said, ie the issue of human excrement being scattered across the landscape. “Your Number Two issue has become our number one issue,” she said. “So, we came up with the ‘Poo Like a Pro’ campaign.
She said all education information will be going out in several main formats, including printed, and via a map (more on this in forthcoming stories).
Mapping: Matthew Paruolo, Mammoth’s Recreation Director, said his group has spent the months frantically working on a GIS map and other maps to show people where jurisdictional boundaries area, such as the line between the private DWP land (no camping of any kind allowed) and federal lands (dispersed camping allowed in many places) are.
Sometimes, he said, people can have one foot in private land and one in federal and not know it, resulting in illegal camping.
“The map is not intended to promote dispersed camping nor to prohibited, but to sort of demystify this patchwork of ownership in different policies that are in place throughout the Eastern Sierra, providing accurate and reliable information to public lands users that encourages responsible, sustainable and legal recreation,” he said. “And this map is intended to direct users to existing private and public campgrounds ... visitor centers, RV dump stations and other amenities that are going to be useful to have a responsible and sustainable experience out here,” he said. The mapping project is currently underway, but not yet complete. The group expects access to preliminary maps soon.
Stewardship: Alex Ertaub of Friends of the Inyo told the group that stewardship means enhance education management presence, and restoration through partnerships.”
The issue is not that there are no ongoing efforts to do this; there are many familiar non-profits and government groups doing the work, he said. The issue is coordinating them all, especially to get the work done in the places most likely to be the most impacted this summer.
“We have a lot of really good work happening out on the ground between the agencies, nonprofits in the area like Friends of the Inyo or Mammoth Lakes recreation, as well as counties and municipalities... but we really just need to communicate a little bit better with each other, kind of, work smarter to work harder, and really stretch the resources that we already have,” Ertaub said.
The group will also be coordinating volunteer efforts; those who want to help will soon have a calendar to look at and a list of opportunities to help that will go live soon.
Infrastructure: Headed by Mammoth Lakes Town Councilman John Wentworth, this group is there to make sure the stuff that gets left behind when campers leave; trash, human feces, etc. has a place to go.
“Where do we put this stuff?,” he said.” It needs to go somewhere else. The trash, the bottles this stuff, the diapers, the unmentionables. Where's all that stuff going to go?”
The answer is the region needs more places to put it; more Porta Potties, more dumpsters. So, the group made a map that outlined the very best places for each and is working on getting that organized. How are they going to pay for it? One way is to ask businesses and individuals to “adopt” a Porta Potty or a Dumpster financially. Not to empty them or manage them, just to support the cost. For example, Wentworth said, the owners of the June Lake Junction are supporting a new Dumpster.
Signage was another big priority for the working group on infrastructure and there will be many more signs added to places to help visitors know where they are and what is allowed. There will be ways for anyone interested in helping this effort as well; stay tuned to upcoming articles in the Times.
Enforcement: Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun told the group Tuesday that indeed, enforcement is a big challenge, mostly because the Eastern Sierra is a huge landscape and there are only a few law enforcement officers relative to the acreage. “This is to be straight up front with this, we have capacity challenges,” she said. “I don't have a ton of deputies, the Forest Service has two or three law enforcement officers, BLM has two law enforcement officers. We don't have a ton of people out there to make this happen. We're gonna try, we're gonna do everything that we can. One of the things that we've talked about is our ability to communicate with each other and one of the beautiful things about the Eastern Sierra and having worked in a big city, I'll say this doesn't happen out of places. It's all worked very well together.”
That said, she said, there are simply not enough people to go around so she is counting on the public to help out; not to confront others but to let local law enforcement know what they see.
The issue of how to do that was addressed: "If you see something somebody's camping where they're not supposed to camp, or having a fire at a dispersed campsite or doing something they're not supposed to do or leaving trash or anything that you feel needs law enforcement attention outside of an emergency, dial our dispatch at 760-932-7549 (option 7),” she said. “If you have an emergency, if there is a raging fire, or you went to talk to somebody and they pointed a gun at you or something horrible, you dial 911. It's going to be the same person, whether it's our dispatcher our 911, and the benefit to 911 Is it pinpoints where you are, it gives us the geolocation, and we can understand exactly where you are.”
The Times will follow this story up with more details in forthcoming issues.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE
• The main website that will hold much of the ‘Camp like a Pro’ information is at
https://www.essrp.org/
Go to the bottom right corner and click on ‘Camp Like a Pro’ for maps, information, tips, and much more.

For more information contact:
• Paul McFArland at dechambeaucreekfdn@gmail.com
OR
• Matt Paruolo at mparuolo@mono.ca.gov

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