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Scotty’s Castle Renovations Continue

Death Valley, Calif.— Scotty’s Castle located in the northern region of Death Valley National Park has been closed since October 18, 2015 when almost three inches of rain fell on the Scotty’s Castle area in Grapevine Canyon. The flash flood that ensued dramatically changed the landscape, the road and utilities were destroyed and some buildings damaged. Repairs are estimated at $47 million. Repairs are being funded over multiple years from a number of sources: park entrance fees, Federal Highways Administration, National Park Service deferred maintenance accounts, and donations.

Post flood, Death Valley National Park has requested funding from the Death Valley Natural History Association (DVNHA) to assist with funding several curatorial projects at Scotty’s Castle including: treatment of the silver collection, conservation of the Scotty’s Castle Upper Music Room Curtains, and repairs to the Scotty’s Castle Welte-Mignon Theatre Organ currently underway.

The Death Valley Natural History Association presented a check this week in the amount of $41,420 to fund the
reproduction of eight leather curtains in the Great Hall of Scotty’s Castle. The original painted and tooled sheepskin curtains are severely deteriorated. After 90 years of use in the desert, they have desiccation, tears, fading, cracking and loss of tassels. A professional conservation examination in 2012 determined that the
curtains are beyond repair. All curtains at Scotty’s Castle have an important function in protecting sensitive historic furnishings and textiles from further UV damage and also allow visitors to visualize the space as it was when occupied by the Johnson’s in the 1930s.

A complex project, leather stamps for this project were manufactured in 2018 using NPS funding and artisans
capable of stamping, cutting, coloring, and sewing the fully replicated reproductions took years to find. Appropriate weight and color matched leather is being sourced and artisans are now ready to begin work.

“This is the perfect timing for preservation and conservation work to take place while the collection has been taken out of Scotty’s Castle. Due to lack of temperature and humidly controls the entire collection normally housed within the Castle was removed for its protection. We have been working as fast as we can to raise
money so that necessary repairs to collection items can be made and so that the historic house can be reopened as complete as possible,” said David Blacker Executive Director of the Death Valley Natural History Association. “It all takes time and people willing to contribute.”

The Scotty’s Castle Historic District is scheduled to reopen in October 2021. During the closure, there are limited opportunities to visit Scotty’s Castle with a park ranger and see first-hand how the power of water shapes the landscape of Death Valley, listen to the stories of this unique palace in the desert, the people who called it home, and the projects underway to reopen this unique historic district. This season’s tours are offered on Sundays from December 8, 2019 through April 12, 2020. Reservations are required in advance. Tickets are $25 per person, available at www.dvnha.org. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Scotty’s Castle Historic Preservation Fund to support projects like the aforementioned. An additional $25,000 is needed for conservation treatment of the Scotty’s Castle Dining Room Curtains.

For more information on the Death Valley Natural History Association or to make a donation to the Scotty’s Castle Historic Preservation Fund please visit: www.dvnha.org.

What’s Next for the Bishop Kmart Property?

Kmart and Sears are getting ready to close another batch of stores throughout the United States in February. Transformco, the company who own both chains has announced it will close 96 Sears and Kmart stores, leaving the chain with 182 locations.

The Kmart based in Bishop has been confirmed by USA Today as a location which will shut its doors in just a few months time.

News of the store closure has many residents in the Eastern Sierra concerned as to where they will purchase items such as office supplies, clothes, and appliances.

Additionally, the closure has led to many people asking City of Bishop officials what is next for the location where Kmart sits.

Associate Planner and Economic Development Coordinator, Elaine Kabala was able to answer some of those questions during the Tuesday City Council meeting.

“The closing of Kmart is a significant issue to the community as it well should be.” Kabala said.

The Economic Development Coordinator told the council she and Interim City Administrator, Robin Picken are getting ready to meet with the property owners where the department store sits. “I spoke to Kmart headquarters as well as the property owners of the building and surrounding properties to talk about what their plans are for bringing in a future retail tenant. The property owners are still working on an internal strategy, but we will be setting up a meeting with the property managers next week.”

Elaine Kabala believes that property owners seemed to be receptive to the idea of bringing in another retailer. “I talked with them [the property owners] last week and initial conversations were very positive. They were interested in the Bishop Market and want to find a good fit for replacing Kmart.”

The City of Bishop employee also expressed the importance of finding a replacement quickly. Kabala expressed, “We are trying to get ahead of this issue and stay on top of it.”

As for now, all annual holiday endeavors are taking place at the Bishop Kmart this year. These events include KIBS Radio’s Coats for Kids Drive, Eastern Sierra Shop with a Cop, and Eastern Sierra Transit Authority’s Stuff-A-Bus event.

Affordable Housing Development in Mammoth is Gaining Traction

The Town of Mammoth Lakes is getting ready to issue a request for statements of qualifications for the development of a piece of land known as The Parcel, which consists of twenty-five acres of land near the center of Mammoth Lakes.

A statements of qualification is a process relating to accepting bids for the development of a property.

Mammoth Lakes wishes to, “identify a development team consisting of one or more developers that will be the best fit to partner with the town to develop The Parcel.”

Currently, the Town of Mammoth Lakes has set broad guidelines and objectives for what they wish to see in a possible development for the existing site, which includes the construction of 400-450 properties ranging from studio apartments to entire houses zoned for affordable residences to be completed by 2022.

According to an official document from the Department of Public Works for the Town of Mammoth Lakes, the cheap housing is required to be priced at or below 120 percent of the area’s median income.

Other than creating affordable housing, The Parcel must adhere to the town’s wishes and include a community facility, formal and informal open spaces, vehicle and bicycle parking for residents and guests, and must consider pets in the design of the neighborhood.

Further restrictions include establishing a “livable, integrated, and well-designed community.” For example, the Town of Mammoth Lakes wishes to assure that the structures built connect seamlessly to the neighborhood and its surroundings.

Although 2022 is a long way off, the town council of Mammoth Lakes is taking steps toward turning The Parcel into homes in the future. On November 21, a pre-submittal conference for interested parties is scheduled for those who would like to find out more. After that, the Town Council is expected to accept a preferred conceptual land use plan on December 11, meaning the town desires to regulate property to ensure a more desirable socioeconomic outcome.

Photos of Children Found in Alleged Child Predator’s Storage

A Mammoth Lakes resident who was arrested for three counts of sexual acts with a child under the age of 14 is now facing added charges of possession of child pornography and destruction of evidence.

On July 22, 2019, Mammoth Lakes Police Department and Mono County District Attorney Investigators arrested Christopher Adams Libby on alleged sexual activity with children. In their press release, the Mono County DA’s Office stated, “In accordance with the applicable statue of limitations, Mr. Libby is alleged to have had substantial sexual conduct with the minor, and the conduct is supported by independent corroborating evidence.”

The case against Libby indicates the alleged acts occurred during 2002 and 2003. However, the District Attorney’s Office believes there are potentially other victims.

Last week, Libby was released from jail after paying his $100,000 bail. After being released, Libby requested that his niece destroy further evidence at a storage locker in Mammoth Lakes. Upon arriving at the alleged child predator’s locker, Mr. Libby’s niece discovered child pornography in the form of Polaroid pictures along with a camera, and 2017-2019 newspaper clippings containing photographs of local Mammoth Lakes’ children in the newspaper The Sheet.

The 61 year-old male’s niece subsequently turned the evidence over to investigators. After receiving the child pornography and newspaper clippings, authorities arrested Mr. Libby a second time only a day and a half after posting bail.

Mono County Assistant District Attorney, David Anderson, said the photographs taken “appear to be of a personal nature.”

As for the newspaper clippings discovered in Libby’s locker, Anderson said the district attorney’s office cannot determine at this moment if the pictures of children in the newspaper were targets of the alleged predator.

Anderson also made it clear, “The parents of the children identified in the newspaper have been notified that Mr. Libby possessed photographs of their kids.”

Libby is scheduled to appear back in court on September 17, 2019, and is being held on $1,000,000 bail. Prosecutors are aiming to assure that there is no possible way for the defendant to be released inasmuch as the district attorney’s office believes he is a flight risk and danger to the public.