Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

‘Twas the night before the remodel

Change is positive, necessary, and good. And change is what we’re about to see out in front of the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore starting tomorrow morning as the storefront remodel gets underway. Are you ready?

For the past few days I’ve been poking around out front taking photos to document what things look like before the remodel, and generally just getting used to the idea that this project, years in the making, is actually going to happen.

The Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore on the morning of March 27, 2012.

Today we took away all of the things we want to keep … the wine barrels for flowers, the river rocks that marked the garden areas, the signs from inside the kiosk out front. Yes, we kept the rocks.

Geoff McQuilkin and Rose Catron saving soil from the old planters before the construction crew arrives.

It’s impossible not to get excited for things like the new deck to welcome people into the store, the seating areas for visitors, the new greywater system, the ADA-accessible lift, and the drinking fountain and water bottle filling station.

A conceptual drawing of the storefront remodel. Drawing courtesy of Siegel & Strain Architects.

There’s a little bit of nostalgia too. I haven’t personally seen much dramatic change to the storefront in my 15 years here, but since I spend a lot of time in the historical photo archives, I feel a sense of familiarity with the various phases that the buildings and ground have gone through over time.

From the Mono Lake Committee archive: the storefront in 1978 and 1982.

A lot of little bits of Mono Lake Committee history have taken place out there on that sloping pavement … bucket walks … impromptu meetings with passers-by … staff photos … strategy sessions … Committee kids posing for the Newsletter catalog … visits from well-known people such as Gary Snyder, Terry Tempest Williams, and David Brower … it’s where many, many people first learned that there is an organization passionately dedicated to protecting, restoring, and educating people about Mono Lake.

The storefront in 1990 and 2008.

Of course there are the stories from long-time locals as well—of the different uses of the buildings before 1978 … the dance hall for the aqueduct workers, the barber shop, the gift shop, and the ice house.

"CW 1967 LVHS" etched into the crumbling concrete steps. I'm sure someone in this town knows who CW from Lee Vining High School is.

All of this history, combined with all of the careful decisions we’ve made at each step in the planning process make me think about how great it is that we are able to do this renovation. Every time one of the businesses in town makes improvements it feels like a gift to the whole community and all of the visitors—and particularly so in this case as the Committee houses the Lee Vining Chamber of Commerce. This project started last year when we re-stuccoed the storefront and was one of the highlights of 2011. It is going to turn this little section of Lee Vining into a place that celebrates Mono Lake more than ever.

Committee staff working with architect Larry Strain, standing at right, and my dad, in the yellow shirt,who helped guide us through the process, back in 2010.

So, stay tuned here on the Mono-logue for frequent updates and photos. This project was made possible by the generosity of the Mono Lake Committee’s 16,000 members, including a bequest from one very dedicated Committee supporter who many members knew, Grace deLaet, and we are excited to share the progress with those who can’t be here to watch it unfold over next few months.