When Lee Vining Elementary School teacher Anna Strathman agreed to help some of her students raise money to help June Mountain stay open by selling lemonade, she didn’t know what to expect.
But within a few days, the students hand-delivered a $147 check to Rusty Gregory, the CEO of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
A few weeks later, they had collected another several hundred dollars, and as of this week, they show no signs of stopping.
“It’s rolling in a good way,” Strathman said. The students are not planning on giving the money to Gregory unless he—or someone else—shows they are willing to open the mountain again.
If not, the money will be funneled through the Parent Teacher Organization into the June Lake Race Team fund, to help the racers with gas and other needs, should they have to commute to Mammoth Mountain for training.
June residents have been putting pressure on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who was expected to meet with Gregory this week to talk about a land trade Gregory has been working on (the meeting could not be confirmed before press time).
The land trade would give MMSA private land at the base of Mammoth Mountain. The land currently belongs to the Inyo National Forest and forest service officials have been working for years to find other land—sometimes across the country—to trade out in exchange for the property MMSA seeks, in hopes of developing the base of the ski area further in the next decade.
The land trade is a long and cumbersome process that has been underway for much of the past decade—long before the announcement that MMSA would close June Mountain this winter—but it is one at least some June residents believe might give them some leverage on MMSA.
“Please be aware that under the unilateral direction of Mr. Gregory, MMSA closed June Mountain with no warning to the Forest Service, Mono County, or the community of June Lake,” said June Lake resident Michael Bogash in an email sent to Feinstein.
“After Mammoth Lakes, June Lake is the largest source of tax revenue for Mono County. The closure of June Mountain will cause a 50 percent loss of revenue to the town. … The local community, Mono County residents, and a large number of your constituents not living in the local area are asking that you not move forward on any special legislative treatment for MMSA in a land exchange until June Mountain is operated under the terms of its special use permit. How can you exchange our federal land to an entity that is in clear violation of a Forest Service special permit, and is clearly a contracting business entity? Please help us!”
Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) office said they were “well aware” of the situation and were in contact with both the forest service and MMSA regarding the issue.
“We are in a watch and wait status right now, and we are very actively monitoring this situation,” said Peter True, Boxer’s press secretary Wednesday. “We recognize the value that June Mountain Ski Area has to the residents of Mono County.”
In the meantime, the group formed to save June Mountain continues to work with the Inyo National Forest and MMSA, trying to find a solution that will keep June Mountain open this winter.