By Deb Murphy
Close to 100 East Side residents got together at Tallman Pavilion last Thursday to kick-off a two-year effort to identify sustainable recreation projects in the Sierra Nevada.
The initiative is funded with $618,760 of Prop. 68 monies, administered by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. John Wentworth with Mammoth Lakes Trails-Public Access is coordinating the 12-meeting series that will stretch through Mono, Alpine and Inyo counties.
Facilitator Michael Ward explained the process: all the ideas generated in the workshops will go into what he described as a funnel, then screened through criteria established through the meetings. The final result will be projects that are be developed up to the point of funding.
The goal of the Inyo National Forest is recreational projects that reflect local experiences and values. According to Ward, the key to the success of a similar process in the southeast was the involvement of gateway communities along the Appalachian Trail. “The presence of a non-government organization to act as a convening entity brought all the entities together into one room to find resources,” he said.
Ward added another layer to the definition of sustainable recreation: “This is not about driving more people here,” he said. “It’s about enhancing the experience, making it more meaningful and more sustainable.”
The value of NGOs working with the Forest Service was echoed by Wentworth who got in on the ground floor in the Inyo National Forest’s planning process, a plan, he said, that reflects the values of the region, turning tourists into stewards of the land.
The next session, October 17 at Tallman Pavilion from 5 to 8, will focus in on project criteria and a discussion of recreation strategies from other areas. Wentworth explained that over the next two years, another 10 similar workshops will be held from Bridgeport to Lone Pine and potentially in Markleville since Alpine County has signed onto the project.