Fear and loathing in June Lake

Residents vent their frustrations as Rusty Gregory asks for political support for a land trade

One of the Mono County Board of Supervisors agenda items for its Tuesday, March 5, meeting was to hear Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory’s presentation for political support for a federal land swap.

Gregory requested the five county supervisors to send a letter of support to Congress for a land exchange he has been pursuing for about a decade. The land trade, if it occurs, will put 20 acres of federal Inyo National Forest Service land at the base of Main Lodge into the Mountain’s ownership—in trade for other properties the forest service hopes to get its hands on.

Although Gregory had asked for the agenda item to be withdrawn and postponed to give him more time to present more information to the board and audience, June Lake’s Supervisor, Tim Alpers said the request came too late to take the item off the county supervisors agenda.

The agenda item brought forth fear and rage as June Lake residents attended and vented their frustration to the board of supervisors.

 No one from the Mountain spoke at the meeting.

“We’re dealing with a person (Gregory) who doesn’t tell the truth,” said Alice Suszynski, a June Lake resident and business owner.

“Now he’s asking the elected officials to support him in his land exchange. Please do not take this stuff without looking at it seriously … do your homework!”

The meeting room was full to overflowing in Bridgeport, with many echoing Suszynski’s words and sentiments.

Perhaps no one was angrier with Gregory than long-time Mono Lake property owner Bill Cunningham. He listed an exhaustive litany of ills allegedly done against him and his family by MMSA, when Cunningham tried to sell some of his property to MMSA to be used in the land trade.

Cunningham listed dates, conversations, and details about his long “nightmare” with MMSA, but with no one from MMSA present at the meeting, he got no response.

His words fired up the audience.

“Leave the money and politicians out of it and do the right thing, not the wrong thing. Do the fair thing, not the unfair thing,” said June Lake resident Michael Bogash.

Residents saw Gregory’s need for political support for his land exchange as a unique vulnerability and an opportunity to put pressure on MMSA to do something valid with June Mountain.

“If we take the pressure off him, who knows what might happen to June Mountain,” said Suszynski.

But the Mono County Board of Supervisors was not in a position to take any action at the time.

“We just got back from the peer resort tour,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston. “We are going to be bringing a lot more information to you, to the community, about what we think might work at June, get your input on that, and we think it only fair to allow MMSA the extra time they asked for to do the same thing.”

“Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are personal friends of mine,” said June Lake Supervisor Tim Alpers. “You can be sure they will be calling up after this to ask if we took a position. It’s too early to do that. We don’t have the complete story.”