After a six month grassroots public effort, the world-renowned state park at Mono Lake—the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve—has been removed from California’s 70-park closure list.
This great news means that the Reserve will remain open to the public, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the local economy, providing public access to Mono Lake, offering educational programs, and assuring ongoing public management and stewardship for Mono Lake’s unique ecosystem.
The December 1 announcement by California State Parks comes just in time for next year’s 30th anniversary of the park, which was created in 1982. For Mono Lake friends and supporters this is certainly a moment to be thankful for, and cause for celebration.
“This is the best Christmas present we could ever wish for. The state park is critical to keeping Mono Lake protected for future generations,” said Sally Gaines, Mono Lake Committee Board Chair. “It’s great news that creative solutions will keep it open.”
Mono Lake leaves the closure list thanks to a broad public effort to keep the Mono Lake Reserve open combined with a new parking fee revenue solution. The news also puts to rest questions raised by many including the Mono Lake Committee about how Mono Lake was selected for the closure list in the first place.
Mono Lake Committee members and Mono Lake fans near and far wrote letters and signed locally-placed petitions all summer, opposing closure and offering possible solutions. Over 4,000 letters and petition signatures were hand-delivered to Governor Jerry Brown, Parks Director Ruth Coleman, Mono County’s State Assemblymember Kristin Olsen, and State Senator Ted Gaines.
Robert Hanna, active Mono Lake champion and great-great-grandson of John Muir, was bouncing off the walls with excitement. “Behind every great accomplishment you’ll find togetherness, and it was a pleasure to work alongside everyone who answered the call to protect Mono Lake. This is our legacy—we must all stand up and find solutions to protect the places we love.”
Important support for keeping the reserve open as a critical piece of the local tourism-based economy came from the Mono County Board of Supervisors, the Mono County Film & Tourism Commission, and the Mammoth Lakes Town Council.
Rusty Gregory, CEO of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, commented, “I applaud California State Parks for deciding to keep the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve open and operating. This decision is a win-win for the environment and the economy. The park’s quarter million visitors can now continue to support the fragile rural economies of our adjacent communities as they enjoy convenient access to the natural wonders of Mono Lake.”
The California State Parks agency, with its highly trained staff and depth of experience, will continue to manage and protect the sovereign state lands and waters of the Mono Lake Reserve sustainably for public enjoyment. A parking fee solution will address the agency’s concerns about the current lack of user fee revenue at the Mono Lake Reserve. The modest parking fee will be put into place at the state’s major west shore visitation site—Old Marina—and all funds collected will be used to offset operating expenses at the Mono Lake Reserve. Given the low cost and high efficiency of the Reserve operation, adding a user fee to the already strong level of volunteer and community support means it is possible to substantially strengthen the foundation of the Reserve and keep it open and operating.
Mono Lake is home to many partnerships, and the Mono Lake Committee commends the Bodie Foundation for stepping forward to operate the new fee collection system. The Bodie Foundation’s special relationship with California State Parks as a non-profit cooperating association allows it to operate park-based programs such as the museum and bookstore at Bodie State Historic Park. At Mono Lake, that makes it the perfect organization to handle the collection and transfer of fees directly to Mono Lake Reserve operations.
State Assemblymember Kristin Olsen said, “I’m thrilled that the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve has successfully been removed from the state’s park closure list. Mono Lake is an integral part of Mono County’s economy, and is a world-renowned tourist destination. Finding creative solutions through public-private partnerships is key to ensuring that Californians continue to have access to state parks for many years to come. I congratulate the community members who have worked hard and creatively to keep Mono Lake open.”
With Mono Lake off the state park closure list, now is a perfect time to make plans to visit the lake’s unique tufa towers and scenic views, either in the winter or with the migratory birds next summer. Mono Lake visitor resources can be found at the Mono Lake Committee website www.monolake.org and for Mono County information, visit www.monocounty.org.