Tag Archives: mammoth lakes news

The Eastern Sierra Has Never Been Busier, Nor More Trashed

Campgrounds, public lands, and public facilities have never been busier than they are right now in the Eastern Sierra. The large increase in visitation to towns and areas in the Inyo National Forest is likely because visitors from Southern California and other areas of the state and country have been encouraged to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are looking for a getaway in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Unfortunately with a high amount of visitation, comes a higher chance of seeing vandalism, littering, trash dumping, dispersed camping, and illegal campfires.

Inyo National Forest Public Affairs Specialist, Deb Schweizer, says she cannot remember a time that she has seen campgrounds and hiking trails busier. “I have never seen our public lands busier,” Schweizer said. “I have never seen as much violation of rules as we are seeing right now such as illegal campfires, dispersed fires, trash dumping, and vandalism.”

One such example of the disregard some individuals are showing is near June Lake. Trees and rocks have been vandalized with graffiti on hiking trails, trashcans have been left overflowing with waste, and playgrounds have been riddled with trash.

According to Mono County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Sarah Roberts, the department’s June Lake Substation was vandalized, and the door was kicked in. The Mono County Sheriff’s Office says they are investigating the incident.

At this point in time, they are not completely sure if the vandalism occurred this past weekend or beforehand. Luckily the substation is not currently used by the department, so nothing of value was taken.

Another recent example of some of the disregard travelers are showing on public lands is at the Crestview Rest Area just north of Mammoth Lakes. One picture posted on Facebook shows four dumpsters filled to the brim with trash along with litter spewed across the parking lot.

Schweizer says that the Inyo National Forest is not the only place that has seen an uptick in illegal activity on public lands. “The vandalism is not just happening on the Inyo. The National Forest Service has seen an increase in vandalism, littering, and illegal campfires everywhere,” Schweizer said.

Mammoth Lakes Tourism Welcomes New Board Member

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (July 13, 2020) At its July 1 meeting the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board of Directors appointed Pat Foster to the At-Large seat available on the board.

Born in Bridgeport, Foster has been a lifelong resident of the Eastern Sierra,having lived in June Lake and Bishop for most of his life. He is the President of Hot Creek Aviation at the Mammoth Yosemite Airport where he has spent the last 21 years providing General Aviation Services and working alongside the town’s air service partners.

Mammoth Lakes Tourism has done some amazing work over the last several years and I am excited to join its efforts,” Foster said.We find ourselves in unprecedented and challenging times right now -I am hoping I can contribute to a responsible recovery.”

The role of the At-Large Board seat is to provide guidance from the larger business community in Mammoth Lakes. It is meant to bring a perspective beyond the other represented groups of lodging, restaurant and retail.

“As a lifelong Eastern Sierra resident, and President of Hot Creek Aviation, Pat Foster brings a unique perspective on our community to the MLT Board of Directors,” said Board President, John Morris.We look forward to his input and wisdom regarding the pending expansion of air service to Bishop Airport and other key strategic initiatives.”

Mammoth Food Bank Ends After Serving over 37,000 Meals

Press Release from Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (July 13, 2020) —On June 26, 2020, after 14 weeks of operation, Mammoth Lakes Tourism wrapped up its community food bank amid the reopening of many business segments in town.In total the food bank served 10,312 households containing 37,054 persons with 25,000 bags of food during its time of operation.

Additionally, 196 volunteers gave their time at the food bank, donating nearly 3,500 hours to keep things running smoothly.

“It was so gratifying to see how the community pulled together to help each other,” said MLT Board Treasurer Rhonda Duggan. “With so much uncertainty about how COVID-19 would impact our residents and visitors, relieving the stress of how to feed our families seemed like the right thing to do. It started as a two-week commitment and grew into 14 weeks, through rain, snow, wind, and finally sunshine. Through all that time, the donations from locals, businesses, second homeowners, friends, and strangers kept coming.”

The food bank initiative began when the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board of Directors decided it wanted to do something to support the local tourism industry as things were shutting down in town due to coronavirus. The organization wanted to make sure it helped keep tourism workers taken care of so they could remain in town. The food bank opened on March 23.

“When our MLT board looked at how we could best serve our business community, the food bank was almost instantly the best option,” said MLT Executive Director John Urdi. “In order for our workforce to survive, food would be a critical resource that would be difficult for many to afford. Within days we were able to formulate a plan, US Foods stepped up to provide food at cost, Paul and Kathleen Rudder offered what turned out to be the perfect location in the Promenade at Main Street, the volunteers immediately signed up to help, and cash donations from around the state poured in to assist our efforts to help sustain our workforce. To say the effort was well received by our community is an understatement.”

A huge thanks goes out to everyone involved in the food bank whether through donation, volunteer time, support, and everything else.

Mono County Appoint Bob Lawton as County Administrative Officer

MONO COUNTY, CA, June 03, 2020 – Late yesterday, Mono County Board of Supervisors Chair Stacy Corless announced the appointment of Bob Lawton as County Administrative Officer. The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to appoint Mr. Lawton during closed session at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  Mr. Lawton has served as Acting County Administrative Officer since April 07, 2020.

On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, I’d like to thank Bob for his steadfast leadership in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and congratulate him on this appointment,” said Chair Corless. “Bob’s deep knowledge of California county governance will guide us as we continue to serve our communities, and to maintain Mono County’s critical operations as we continue to meet the challenges in front of us.”

Mr. Lawton has more than 20 years of local government experience, including previous service as County Administrative Officer in Calaveras County, Assistant County Administrative Officer for Sonoma County (Extra Hire), Deputy County Administrator for Solano County, and City Manager of Turlock, California. Mr. Lawton was appointed Assistant CAO for Mono County following a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors on February 18, 2020, and subsequently appointed Acting County Administrative Officer in April.

In addition to his role as County Administrative Officer, Mr. Lawton will continue to represent the County’s interest as a Unified Commander within the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response.

Ryan Dermody Appointed as Caltrans District 9 Director

BISHOP – Caltrans is pleased to announce that Mr. Ryan Dermody has been appointed to the position of District 9 Director effective May 4, 2020. Mr. Dermody previously served as the Deputy District Director of Planning and Environmental Analysis for District 9, a role he’s filled since 2013. In this position, he led a team that articulated a long-term transportation vision while fostering local, regional, state, and federal partnerships.

 

“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to serve as the Director of Caltrans District 9,” Mr. Dermody says. “In this role, I plan to build on the positive partnerships we have created and lead our district in implementing statewide goals that focus on safety and improvements for all users of the transportation system.”

 

Mr. Dermody has been with Caltrans District 9 since 2001, and in more than 19 years with the department, he has completed a variety of impactful acting assignments, including as Chief of the Eastern Sierra Environment Branch and Project Manager, the Office Chief of Local Assistance, and, just last year, the Division Chief for Transportation Planning at Caltrans headquarters in Sacramento.

 

A graduate from Oregon State University, Mr. Dermody holds a Bachelor and Master of Science degree from the school, as well as a certificate in Project Management from California State University, Sacramento. He’s also an Eagle Scout. He currently lives in Bishop with his wife Lori and their two children. In his free time, Mr. Dermody enjoys mountain biking, skiing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and spending time in his backyard with his family.

 

Mr. Dermody takes over the District 9 Director position from Brent Green, who served in the role since March 2015 and retired from State service on May 1, 2020.

 

NIH COVID-19 Update: General Population Testing Not Happening Any Time Soon

Key figures from Northern Inyo Hospital held a conference call to discuss where the healthcare district stands in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Will Timbers took the lead on the conference call and told the media what NIH’s plans are when it comes to testing.

Population testing may be available in the future, meaning that the public will be able to receive testing. However, NIH say they are not remarkably close to that becoming a reality. Timbers said, “Over the next few months we will be trying to keep the virus under control. However, there are a lot of significant barriers we have in relation to widespread testing.”

It is important to eventually implement large scale testing to safely reopen specific aspects of the economy. “The bigger the sample size, the more accurate information will be relating to COVID-19. The better picture you get, the easier it will be to understand the disease’s prevalence,” said Timbers. With a higher data sample, it becomes easier for officials to decide when it is okay to reopen the economy.

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Will Timbers says he worries that another epidemic could happen in the future. Another outbreak of an illness within the coronavirus family could be a real possibility. There have already been two other coronavirus diseases over the past twenty years. “Within the past twenty years, we have had three outbreaks of different coronaviruses including SARS and MERS. So, it is clearly happening with some regularity. There are thousands of coronaviruses in birds and mammals that could jump to humans,” Dr. Timbers remarked.

It is too early to tell if COVID-19 will turn into something like the flu, which occurs seasonally. However, Timbers says that the idea of the coronavirus evolving like influenza does is not out of the realm of possibility. “We do not know yet, [whether COVID-19 mutates like influenza] but I really hope not. There is something called antigenic drift for influenza. The flu changes rapidly every year, and we are always trying to catch up. It could happen with COVID too, but it is too early to tell. But again, I hope it is not the case, because it would be one of the worst-case scenarios,” Timbers expressed

Inyo National Forest Provides Updates on Recreation Closures

On March 25, 2020, Regional Forester Randy Moore issued a Closure Order for all developed recreation sites across all National Forests in the Region.  This closure order is likely to be in place through early May.  Additional details will follow later this week.

The USDA Forest Service’s highest priority is ensuring our employees and visitors remain safe as we support mission critical functions for the people and communities we serve.

This closure excludes trails and trailheads. However, the Inyo National Forest has cancelled the issuance of Wilderness permits, including Mt. Whitney day and overnight permits, through May 15. Typically, the Wilderness quota system begins for the forest on May 1 and reservations for permits are issued via recreation.gov. Inyo County has advised that people do not engage in high risk activities. Mt. Whitney, especially this time of year, is an area where rescues and recoveries are common. People who have been awarded a permit reservation for Mt. Whitney or any other trailhead on the Inyo National Forest will receive a notice from recreation.gov that notifies them that their reservation has been cancelled and a refund have been issued.

While trails remain open for day use, we recommend complying with local and state guidance and not traveling for your recreation needs.

If you do plan on visiting the Inyo National Forest, please be aware that:

  • No trash removal is currently offered – please pack out all trash and waste
  • All toilet facilities are currently closed – please plan accordingly
  • Avoid high-risk activities – law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited
  • If an area is crowded, please search for a less occupied location

All Inyo National Forest campgrounds are closed. This includes Kennedy Meadows, Lone Pine, Mt. Whitney Trailhead, Lower Grays Meadow, Grandview, Sage Flat, Bitterbrush, Big Trees, Four Jeffrey, Forks, Intake 2, Holiday, Tuff, and French Camp, Convict Lake, New Shady Rest, Old Shady Rest, and Sherwin Creek, Oh Ridge, June Lake, Gull Lake, Aerie Crag, and Lower Lee Vining. The remaining campgrounds in the Bishop Creek drainage, Rock Creek drainage, Lakes Basin, Reds Meadow Valley, June Lake Loop, Lee Vining Canyon, and along Hwy 395 between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining are typically closed for winter conditions this time of year.

As a reminder, many roads that access these areas may also be closed for winter conditions.

All visitor centers are closed. This includes the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center in Lone Pine, the White Mountain Ranger Station, the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center, and the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center in Lee Vining. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center is closed for the winter.

All picnic areas are closed. South Tufa (Mono Lake), Convict Lake, Hot Creek, and June Beach Day Use areas are closed. All campground restrooms, trailhead restrooms, picnic area, and day use restrooms are closed.

Customers needing information may call during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00 am- 4:30 pm, closed for lunch 12:00 pm -12:30 pm). Please be patient since call volume is significant.

  • Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center:760-924-5500
  • White Mountain Ranger Station and Bishop Supervisor’s Office: 760-873-2400
  • Eastern Sierra Visitor Center, Lone Pine: 760-876-6200 

Closing any site for any reason is not one we take lightly, but protecting our visitors and employees remains our highest priority. We are working with our state and local partners to determine the best path forward to safely reopening closed sites.

 

Mammoth Lakes Cancels Fourth of July Festivities

MAMMOTH LAKES, CA (April 27, 2020) – Due to the timing uncertainty for the modification or lifting of the Governor’s unprecedented Stay At Home Order, along with the state’s subsequent mitigation measures for special events, the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Fourth of July festivities.

Cancelled July 4 festivities in the Mammoth Lakes area for 2020 currently include the Annual Mammoth Lakes Fourth of July Parade, Footloose Freedom Mile, POPS in the Park, Mono Arts Council: Mammoth Celebrates the Arts Festival, Mammoth Museum at Hayden Cabin Family Celebration, and the Fireworks Spectacular at Crowley Lake.

“This is a very serious situation and now, more than ever, we must be vigilant about following guidance and directives in order to flatten the curve and to decrease the strain on our local health care system. Physical distancing and other mitigations must continue even after the Stay At Home Order is lifted. We are experiencing some respite, but we are clearly not out of the woods yet. You may say we have a bit of a cease fire, but the war is not over,” stated Dr. Boo.

“The Town of Mammoth Lakes would like to recognize and acknowledge the many long-standing partners, supporters and sponsors of the annual Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular at Crowley Lake,” stated Stuart Brown, Parks and Recreation Director. “Canceling this generational event was an extremely difficult decision, but in our current environment of uncertainty, safety is our top priority. Next year will be bigger and better thanks to the Crowley Lake Fish Camp, L.D.C., Mono County

Community Services Area 1, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Pyro Spectaculars by Souza.”

“While we know the Fourth of July festivities are always a favorite for tens of thousands of our loyal Mammoth Lakes’ visitors, we appreciate the need to focus on health and safety,” said John Urdi, Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director.

This decision does not come lightly to any of the partnering entities. These measures are being taken to ensure the health and well-being of all Mono County residents and our many loyal visitors. The Chamber of Commerce is aware of the fiscal impacts this will have on the business community and has already begun, in partnership with the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Lakes Tourism, working toward an alternative for the business community, locals, and visitors to celebrate our national holiday in a safe and responsible manner.

Mono County DA Will Not Seek Death Penalty in Alleged Premeditated Murder Case

DECISION TO NOT SEEK DEATH PENALTY IN PEOPLE V. CORREA-VASQUEZ

Part of the District Attorney’s responsibility in a murder case is to make the decision whether to seek or not seek the Death Penalty. To assist in that decision, the District Attorney convenes a death review panel and conducts a Penalty Phase Investigation. The victim, Jose Omar Hernandez Sanchez, was brutally gunned down in the early morning hours of October 9, 2016, by the defendant Josue Adalberto Corea-Vasquez. The defendant was charged with murder with special circumstances of lying in wait which makes the crime eligible for the death penalty. The Death Penalty Investigation comprises of input from the victim’s family and friends, input from the defendant’s family and friends, consideration of the facts of the crime, background investigation into the defendant, ties to gangs, prior crimes, reputation and involvement in the community, and the overall purpose in seeking justice.

Since 1778, capital punishment has been a legal penalty in California. In 1972 the Supreme Court struck down the capital punishment statute however, within a few months, Proposition 17, was passed by the voters which once again legalized the death penalty. In 2012 and 2016, California again, rejected two initiatives to repeal the death penalty by popular vote. As of March 2019, current Governor Gavin Newsom put a moratorium on any further executions even though the law found favor with the California voters. Since 1972 only 13 executions have taken place with the last one in 2006. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records show 744 inmates currently on California’s death row.

Regardless of California’s history regarding the death penalty, as long as capital punishment remains as a lawful sentence, it is my legal obligation to thoroughly and thoughtfully consider all the information and facts in a very deliberate manner and decide whether the death penalty is an appropriate sentence to be applied in a case.

After receiving input from the Death Review Panel, meetings with the victim’s family and evidence gathered through the Death Penalty Investigation, as well as evidence provided by the defendant’s family, the office will not be seeking death as a sentence and instead will seek the maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole. In balancing the crime with the information that was gathered, sentencing to life in prison outweighed death. Discussion with victim’s family was critical to this decision and although the murder of the victim will never be understood, showing compassion and not moving forward with a lengthy process will allow the family to heal and move forward.

Northern Inyo Hospital Opening Services for Non-Coronavirus Patients

Interim Chief Medical Officer of Northern Inyo Healthcare District, Dr. Will Timbers, provided the latest update on how the hospital is faring in its fight against the coronavirus.

Timbers says the hospital is opening up limited operations this week in order to assist people who need other health concerns addressed which are unrelated to COVID-19. “Starting today, we are shifting the hospital toward limited operations. We will be providing many of the services we provided before the pandemic hit, just with some alterations such as implementing things like social distancing and providing telehealth visits when possible,” Timbers said.

Some of these services include surgeries, doctor checkups, and other hospital examinations.

Over the past month and a half, the hospital has modified nearly all of its operations to combat COVID-19. Because of these alterations, the hospital has had a large decrease in hospital admissions, which has taken its toll on the district’s income. Dr. Timbers spoke more about the lack of revenue saying, “I can tell you it has had big impact on the district’s finances. We have cash on hand currently and we are looking at how long we can sustain operations with that.”

Timbers also said the hospital is seeking assistance from the government. “The federal government appears to be working on a bill that will help critical access hospitals. If we don’t get help from the new bill, our grant department has also been busy trying to acquire funding,” the Interim Chief Medical Officer added.

Herd immunity from coronavirus could play a factor in curtailing the amount of new infections in the coming months. However, Dr. Timbers appears to be cautious when it comes to the notion that once people have coronavirus, they cannot get it again. Timbers said, “Making blanket statements about herd immunity this early is a bit immature. There are still some unanswered questions. We don’t know about whether or not COVID mutates and changes every year like the seasonal flu. If that is the case, herd immunity is not going to be very effective. My hope is for a vaccination from COVID-19 to happen sooner rather than later. That is going to be our best chance of stamping this out.”

Though a vaccination is not going to happen in the immediate future, social distancing and other preventative measures have made a difference in limiting the amount of new cases of COVID-19. Timbers emphasized that the community is doing an excellent job when it comes to “flattening the curve.”

“I wanted to say thanks to entire community for their participation in this effort. If they weren’t covering up and social distancing, we would be in a different place right now,” Timbers expressed.