It is common knowledge Mono County has a tourism-based economy.
Although Mammoth Lakes contributes the most money to the county’s coffers, the rest of Mono County also houses unique tourism gems it needs to keep as shiny as possible to attract visitors.
While the county itself has strong recreation-based economic elements, there are nuanced differences that currently help to define each region—each region offering slightly different appeals.
In Bridgeport, we have Bodie and the Twin Lakes area.
In June Lake, we have the (returning) ski area.
Lee Vining is a gateway to Yosemite, and it also has Mono Lake.
Coleville and Walker are the gateways to the Walker River, famous for excellent fishing.
In an increasingly competitive tourism market, it is essential for Mono County to position itself to be an attractive option to all potential visitors, all the time.
It is essential to pay attention to even the tiniest of details.
Like roads, for example.
As residents of tourism-based Mono County, citizens and officials have raised concern to the Mono County Board of Supervisors over the deplorable condition of the gravel road used to get to Bodie.
At the supervisors Oct. 15 meeting, debate circled around who should be charged with the task of maintaining the road after the pavement ends.
In a letter to Mono County Tourism and Film Commission, Helene T. Frakes, summer volunteer in Bodie, and a Bridgeport resident, said the road has deteriorated since last summer and is in deplorable condition.
“During August alone,” she wrote, “two Bodie visitors had their vehicles’ oil pans punctured by rocks on the road.”
“This is disheartening,” Supervisor Tim Fesko said. “We need to deal with these negative issues.”
According to the most recent study done measuring the economic impact of the park to Mono County, 18 percent of all the visitors who visit Mono County in the spring, summer and fall go to Bodie, totaling about 230,000 people.
That translates to about $15 million a year, according to former Bodie State Park Superintendent Brad Sturdivant, who was a superintendent at the park for 25 years.
As tourism becomes a strategy for cities across the nation to market, we believe each of Mono County’s regional attractions needs to sit high on the county’s priority. Issues facing these attractions need to be dealt with in a smooth, efficient, and quick manner.
From a strategic perspective, it will be critical for these areas to be as competitive as possible within their niche so as to strengthen and enhance tourism, and therefore enhance employment, which is the primary source of employment in our area.
Unfortunately, in the case with the Bodie road, it seems no one really knows who is responsible for this road.
Supervisor Larry Johnston holds California accountable.
“The state has not maintained this road properly,” he said. “Now they’re asking someone else to bail them out.
“Our understanding is S.R. 270 does go to the park, but Caltrans only recognizes it to the end of the pavement,” said Jeff Walters, acting public works director for Mono County.
Technically, only Main Street in Bodie is a county road, said Jim Leddy, county administrative officer.
The pavement ends three miles from Bodie Bowl, with the remainder a gravel road. There is one more mile of dirt road before reaching the Park kiosk.
CalTrans stated they might maintain the last three miles of gravel road if it is paved to current road standards, Walters said.
The cost of paving those three miles is estimated to be somewhere between $3 to $5 million, he said.
The State Park would like to keep the last mile after Bodie Bowl gravel, Leddy said, in order to “maintain the feel of entering a Wild West town.”
With all the confusion and old history, no one really knows what is what and so we go, round and round.
We’d like to see that road paved, or at least maintained enough to keep visitors from having a bad experience and costly car repairs.
“I urge you to work with local and State officials to get the road into decent condition as soon as possible,” Frakes said in her letter.
We agree. The road needs to be addressed—sooner rather than later.