Members of a citizen’s committee continue to oppose land swap
Some June Lake residents were not charmed—or convinced—last week by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory’s assurances that he was a changed man and that MMSA would finally invest enough in June Mountain Ski Area to make it thrive.
On Tuesday, one week from the day Gregory spoke for several hours with the Mono County Board of Supervisors about his plan to revitalize June Mountain Ski Area, members of the Committee to Revitalize June Lake asked the supervisors to oppose a land trade that Gregory wants—at least until MMSA proves itself.
“On no less than five occasions has he made almost the same promises, and nothing changed,” said committee member Patti Heinrich, citing a series of events that she said proved her point.
“Why do you think the change will come now?”
“There is nothing in how MMSA has handled June Mountain, prior to last week, that suggests they will be good stewards of public land,” said another audience member. “Do not support this without improvements in place,” he said, referring to a land trade with the forest service that Gregory has been seeking for many years that would put a parcel of forest service land at the base of MMSA’s Main Lodge into MMSA ownership in trade for other parcels of land going into federal ownership.
The group said Tuesday that it had recently been in contact with a staff member from Mono County’s Representative in Congress, Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley), and that the staff member was “surprised” that there was any opposition to a proposed bill that is needed to pave the way for the land trade.
“The board has some leverage,” said another audience member. “You should actively oppose it (the land trade) or at least put conditions on it. There are things that need to be done here first.”
Gregory had earlier urged the supervisors to support the bill, but later said that the land swap bill should be put “on the back burner” until MMSA and the June Lake community worked out what they collectively wanted June Lake and June Mountain to become in the future. Gregory laid out his vision last week and was mostly well received.
But the committee from June Lake did not wish to wait, or to risk relinquishing what it sees as critical leverage; a way to make sure MMSA does what it says it will do, in return for political support for the land trade bill.
The board of supervisors listened to citizen testimony on the issue for about an hour Tuesday but did not tip its hand.
“At this point, almost everything has been said,” said June Lake’s county supervisor, Tim Alpers. “I intend to pull together all of the info that has come forward in the last nine months then come back sometime in May with some recommendations to this board about how to deal with the multitude of issues dealing with June Mountain and with the whole winter recreation issue. We had encouraging news (last week) but it needs to be refined. I will use the next few weeks to make this my top priority to meet with everyone involved in this.”
“I can guarantee to you all that we are all taking this very seriously,” said Supervisor Byng Hunt.
“Rusty Gregory wields a lot of power in this county and it would take a lot of courage to challenge him,” said committee member, Alice Suszynski, after the meeting.
“I think we made the case that the supervisors should do just that. We leave it in their hands.”
Gregory said Wednesday that he was moving ahead on the plans he put before the public last week— and with confidence that most of June Lake was on the same page.
“I’m enthusiastic about the response I’m getting from my three-point plan,” he said. “I see a lot of energy from the June Lake community to work with the Mountain to turn June Lake and June Mountain into a real center for recreation and we are making progress every day. There are always, in the Eastern Sierra as everywhere, those on the fringe, that are suggesting a different approach, and they are welcome to their opinion.”