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With the fall color season on the immediate horizon, Mammoth trails activists fear the Lakes Basin is about to put its worst foot forward.
It’s about poop.
It’s about trash.
Ultimately, said Mammoth Trails Committee chairman Sean Turner, it’s about the guests visiting Mammoth in what is arguably its most pristine time of the year.
“We’re leaving our guests with a bad experience,” he said on Monday, Sept. 9, during a discussion among members of the Mammoth Lakes Trails Coordinating Committee.
Turner was not alone in his concern.
Nearly everyone on the committee agreed that when the campgrounds close and the Forest Service loses its seasonal workforce, dumpsters in the Lakes Basin get locked, as do many restrooms.
That leaves visitors with dumpsters that won’t accept trash and restrooms that visitors might want to use—some urgently—only to find they are locked out.
“I’m sure we can look into it,” said the Forest Service’s Sarah Tomsky, the deputy district ranger for the Mammoth and Mono Lake Ranger Districts of the Inyo National Forest. “I’m sure we want to find alternative ways of doing that.”
Steve Searles, Mammoth’s wildlife specialist who routinely patrols the Lakes Basin, said the same problem happens over and over again, every single shoulder season.
He suggested that the dumpsters be collected and put in the basin’s boneyard for the winter; keep at least a few dumpsters open, and properly sign the restrooms directing visitors to open facilities.
The problem is the lag time between the closing of the campgrounds and the first snowfall and/or the opening of the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center, operated by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Tamarack has a scheduled opening for December, leaving the Lakes Basin without basic trash or restroom service for all of October and most of November.
This year, the Lakes Basin campgrounds are scheduled to close soon, said Cheryl Chipman, the spokesperson for the Inyo National Forest.
The campgrounds at Lake George and Lake Mary are to close on Sept. 15. The big campground at Coldwater is scheduled for closure Sept. 30. The Twin Lakes campground, meanwhile, will stay open until Oct. 31 or until a first big snowfall.
Another question (again) is to whether anyone can come up with a solution before it is too late.
“Let’s not be defeatist too soon,” Turner cautioned.