"Summer of Stewardship" in the Inyo a big success


His flannel-lined pants were worn thin and his shirt was in various stages of stress. 

Paul McFarland’s sunburn was somewhere between a rock and a hard place. As for McFarland’s San Francisco Giants cap? You wouldn’t call it orange and black anymore, exactly. After a summer of tough work in the woods, it was more a sun-faded, kinda-sorta orange and wind-blown gray.

This is how a Friend of the Inyo ought to look, and the Inyo National Forest probably had no greater friend than McFarland this past summer, who currently manages the Friends of the Inyo’s Travel Management Implementation Stewardship program.

With the Forest Service budget in roughly the same state as his work clothes, McFarland completed a prodigious work program, herding 188 volunteers along thousands of feet of trails and monitoring 57 miles of soft-surface trails.

McFarland gave a report on the Friends’ work at last week’s meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Trails System Coordinating Committee. His concentration was a breakdown of how the Friends of the Inyo used Measure R tax funds for some of the work on the Lake George trails, the Duck Pass Trail, the Panorama Dome mountain bike and hiking trails and cleanup across the Lakes Basin.

The stewards also worked on the Coldwater trails and Horseshoe Lake trails, but did not draw from Measure R for those projects.

He showed the committee how the Bishop-based non-profit organization churned through nearly $12,200 in Measure R funds and $4,525,000 for in-kind and matching funds from grants and donations to keep the stressed-out trails walkable.

Over five events, the Friends of the Inyo:

• Cut 82 logs cut out of trails

• Maintained 5.35 miles of trail

• Rehabilitated 1,100 feet of illegal and redundant trails

• Removed 1,468 pounds of trash 

• Maintained 31 trail structures 

• Built seven trail structures

• Relocated three bear boxes

• Replaced one sign

• Blocked off and restored 12 switchbacks

• Removed eight fire rings

McFarland told the committee that the volunteers contributed 764 hours of work, worth nearly $16,700 in volunteer time to the Inyo National Forest and Town of Mammoth Lakes.

It was an impressive list, but committee member Bill Sauser wondered aloud if it might have been too impressive.

Sauser, who also chairs the Town of Mammoth Lakes’ Recreation Commission, asked if the Forest Service, knowing that volunteers and independent federal cash could somehow sustain forest amenities indefinitely and actually cut its budget.

McFarland, who lives in Lee Vining, told him to rest easy.

He said if the Forest Service, headquartered within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., sees that a forest is used heavily for recreational use, the historical evidence suggests federal help would be more forthcoming, not less, than in forests that are not used as much.

Mammoth and the Inyo, he said, has a well-known reputation as a well-traveled, well-used area for hiking, fishing, and climbing and therefore would not be subject to an arbitrary cut.

Former Forest Service employee Sandy Hogan, also on the Trail Committee, backed up McFarland’s assertion.

When McFarland was finished with his presentation, something of a miracle occurred. No one on the committee had an objection as to how Measure R monies were used, nor were there questions dealing with the minutiae of the report’s numbers.

McFarland probably would have stayed on to answer any question at all, but on this day he was in a hurry.

It was the afternoon of Game 1 of the World Series, and he appeared to want to put his forest-weary Giants cap to the test, one more time.