State legislators have already made the decision to close 70 California parks, including the Mono Lake Tufa Reserve. The Mono Lake Committee and many others continue the work to change that decision.
Geoff McQuilkin, Executive Director of the Mono Lake Committee, said that the net savings to close the Tufa Reserve amounts to roughly $86,000. The damage adds up to a lot more than that. McQuilkin pointed out that the closure will likely appear in materials that tourists from other countries and states use to make plans. They may skip a visit to Lee Vining altogether.
McQuilkin said that a letter-writing campaign and petitions have sent thousands of pieces of mai to the desks of Mono County’s legislators, State Parks officials and the Governor. In fact, letters continue to end up on legislators’ desks.
This local impact hurts on top of the economic pain already experienced by Eastern Sierra towns. Annual visitation of 271,000 people adds to the local economy. The loss of the Tufa Reserve will also disrupt a substantial organization of 40 volunteers and agency people who conduct tours around the Reserve.
The closure flies in the face of public access policies and goes against the legislation enacted to create the Tufa Reserve. As the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported, closure would mean that “state owned boardwalks, observation platforms and parking lots would be off-limits. Rangers would no longer be available and interpretive programs, lake tours, scientific research and studies by state-funded biologists would presumably be cut.”
Fears also exist that many will simply trespass the closure with unpredictable results. Closure, according to McQuilkin, would also mean no issuance of permits to operate the canoe and kayak tours in addition to permits for filming at the lake which has needed major publicity in the fight to save it from the City of Los Angeles’ water export from the basin.
McQuilkin does want people to know the Reserve remains open now. Closure is slated for next June.
We contacted the office of Mono County State Senator Ted Gaines about his views and the possibility of keeping the famous Reserve open. His communications director, Betsy Hodges, said she would have a comment for us later this week. Hodges added that plans are in the works for Senator Gaines to tour Mono Lake next month.