The Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center (OEC) is the hub of our program that links folks from Los Angeles to the source of their water here in the Mono Basin.
During week-long trips participants walk along the shore of Mono Lake, visit the northernmost end of their watershed at the Lee Vining Creek diversion dam, hike at the tributary streams from which some water may end up in their homes in Los Angeles, and connect to one another over shared meals and conversations. Many say that their visit to Mono Lake is life changing and ignites their passion to become environmentalists or social activists if they are not already.
These truly amazing experiences could not happen without our OEC itself and the amenities it provides. Participants land at the OEC after a long drive along the aqueduct from Los Angeles, frequently stopping at Manzanar National Historic Site along the way. They unload gear into the garage, get a glass of fresh water, and sit together for an opening circle to talk about program goals and expectations.
We lease the OEC house from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power; we have invested in the house throughout the years to make it a more comfortable and efficient space. Solar panels and newer double-pane windows help keep energy costs low. A newly landscaped backyard has created space for groups to gather and sleep in a more secluded area than the front yard. Decades-old carpets and flooring will be replaced this summer—a project that is a long time coming. And we have more plans to continue to make the OEC more efficient and water conscious.
The OEC is also full of gear and equipment if participants are in need. Many hiking boots and water bottles were donated in the past few years. We also supply backpacks, coats, and sleeping pads and sleeping bags for folks to stay warm and comfortable. The closet at the OEC is fully stocked for participants to explore the Mono Basin.
After a week of discovery and connection, we end with a closing circle before the group helps clean the OEC and travels along the aqueduct once again, back to Los Angeles. The OEC takes a breath before hosting and supporting the next group, and many others who follow.
Top photo by Santiago Escruceria.