Tag: alpine county chamber of commerce

An Update on the ESSRP and the Visitor Connection Working Group

Last year, as some of you may recall, the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), “a unique public/public partnership between the United States Forest Service and local agencies,” kicked off. One of “those publics” is the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, one of many regional agencies involved in the project, and yours truly is a representative for the ACCoC.

This update expands on last year’s December post so for a bit more context/information click here and take a gander at that missive before you read on.

The mountains near and behind Mammoth Lakes as seen from the Lake Crowley area during the 2018 Mammoth Gran Fondo. Just a portion of the region on which this initiative is focused.

The partnership, covering roughly the area from Inyo County to Alpine County, began before Covid-19 became part of our lives and so we were initially able to meet in person. That has since changed and we now meet via Zoom. The initiative is comprised of four (4) tracks or programs:

  • Regional Recreation Stakeholder Engagement
  • Climate Adaptation and Resilience Assessment
  • Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience
  • Project Development and Prioritization for Funding
The first meeting of the “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” working group.

Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience

This post is about that third track/program: “the Visitor Connection Working Group (VCWG).”

It all started in October of 2019 when the Chamber was invited to be a part of this effort in order to help “develop a regional strategy to connect with our Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience.” As Kristy Williams, Project Manager, put it: “We aren’t talking about how to get more people here.  We are going to discuss the unique recreation, culture, stewardship, and tourism opportunities that exist here in the Eastern Sierra – and determine how, as a region, we communicate these opportunities to our visitors, including opportunities for stewardship.”

There are about thirty of us, give or take, that are working on this track and we’ve done quite a bit of work, from developing the visitor persona; to devising some particular words and phrases that we feel represent the area and the people who live, work and visit here; to (and this was what we did at our most recent meeting, which took place last week) selecting images that represent those words or phrases.

Speaking of images…One of the bitchenest (is that a word?) things you can do in the Eastern Sierra is ride a bike. This was me finishing the medio route (70 miles) of the Mammoth Gran Fondo in 2018. The MGF is just one of many organized rides (the Deathride is another) that take place in the Eastern Sierra annually.

It’s a Zoom ‘Thang

How are we doing all of this, you ask, without meeting in person?

It’s amazing what can be done with Zoom. Thanks to the incredible staff of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, we don’t just yak as a group or look at slide decks the entire time. The meetings are highly collaborative and open and all ideas and thoughts are welcome. A distinct aspect of these sessions in my mind is the break-out room, or rooms. Several groups are formed and then we are magically and virtually transported (thanks Mr. Wizard) into these rooms with our colleagues.

It’s in those rooms where a lot of the heavy lifting is done.

Last week, our group (and there were three (3) others, groups that is, doing the same thing) was tasked with reviewing approximately thirty images that describe these words – MEMORIES – TRADITION – CONNECTION. Not an easy task by any means but the idea is that these images, from all four (4) groups, would be part of a package given to a team that would then “translate” them into our deliverables, which are things like brochures, handouts and videos that can be used to educate and inform visitors to the Eastern Sierra. Sorry, I can’t show you any of the images; they are top secret for now (and I didn’t take any screenshots).

Skin in the game…

As I wrote (as did Kristy in her email to me) in December it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just about marketing to get MORE PEOPLE to the region. In fact, that’s what it’s least about. It’s really about getting people who are already here, or coming here, to be MORE INVOLVED. And having skin in the game is a vital component to that approach. Meaning:

  • Are visitors educated on what to do and how to act? For example, are they aware of best practices like where to poop (a big topic at our December 2019 meeting) and how to “leave no trace?”
  • Do visitors care about the region?
  • Do they want to help improve and maintain it?
  • Are they willing to educate their families, peers and friends about it?

More to follow…

Yup, it’s not a done deal yet. We’ve got several more meetings, the last of which takes place in February of next year. And we are just one group of many within the larger group. That means there are still lots of cats to herd and work to be done so that we can best utilize that grant money. In the long run that means selecting approximately eight (8) projects. Perhaps that means updated or new bathrooms for some deserving park or community. Maybe it’s about signage and kiosks that describe a particular route or feature. It could be something related to off-road vehicles (the kinds with engines). TBD. Once a project is vetted and approved, however, it will be up to the “winner” to get the funding and execute.

Do you have ideas for improving recreation in the Eastern Sierra? Infrastructure? Access? Programs?

Click here if you do, or if you just want to learn more, you can do that too!

We’re all in it for the long haul and if we do our jobs well then we’ll define the Eastern Sierra as the next Moab or Grand Canyon. A place where generations of us can continue to ride our bikes, climb mountain peaks or granite walls, take our grandkids 4-wheelin’ and catch some big ol’ fish. Before we get there, though, there is more work to be done.

Weekend Update – Two Alps Passes, The Deathride and Fishing

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had some news that I wanted to pass on. And, since I’m an old school SNL guy I thought I’d go with the “Weekend Update” reference (Aykroyd was the best anchor, IMHO).

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass

From our FB post this past Wednesday: “Yesterday afternoon I had an email exchange with David Griffith, one of our Supervisors here in Alpine Co., and he told me that yesterday morning “the Board of Supervisors approved a letter requesting that CalTrans *not* open Monitor or Ebbetts Pass until May 15th. Should perceived danger from covid-19 recede it may open sooner. I was assured that it only applies to motorized vehicles so walkers, hikers and cyclists etc. should be exempt.” It should be safe to go past the gates on Monitor a/o today he said, but there is still snow plowing being done on Ebbetts, so walking, hiking and cycling is discouraged there – for now.”

David was kind enough to ping me yesterday to say the signs that prohibit pedestrians, bicyclists and motor-driven cycles (moped? e-bike?) had been removed.

Signage at Wolf Creek Road on April 21st. The gate is open as of today, though.

Monitor Junction, where highways 4 and 89 intersect, is north of Wolf Creek Road (the above image) and the gates there ARE CLOSED. However, the “peds, cyclists and mdc prohibited” signs are no where to be seen! Just like David said. So, you can ride both of those roads if you wish. Of course, you’re assuming the risk – flat or have a mechanical and depending on where you are it could be a long walk. As for a true emergency? No cell service much past town so if you don’t have a sat-phone or a buddy…

Nonetheless, I partook today, along with other riders and hikers, and road part way up Hwy. 4 (aka Ebbett’s Pass) and part way up Hwy. 89 from the Junction (aka Monitor Pass). Wasn’t into the Full Monty (yeah, another old-school reference but I won’t expand – Google it!) today so just did sections of each. Still, got about 3000′ of climbing in! The roads are in good shape, btw, with not too many rocks, no run-off and no snow.

If you do decide to come up to Markleeville keep in mind that public facilities are still closed, BUT Alps Haus, the J. Marklee Toll Station, and Stonefly are doing take-out so you can grab some grub! Oh, and so is the General Store (open, that is).

Deathride Resurgence

If you’ve signed up then you’re probably already aware…we (the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce and our Ride Director) decided to cancel this year’s ride. Postponing it was discussed but based on the fact that many other rides that have done that already, and therefore the ride saturation that may occur in the fall will be heavy, and because of the logistics of ordering merch. (had to do it now for July and push it back to July if we did a Sept. ride) that was not an option. We also wanted to be considerate of our community and didn’t want to inundate our little town and surrounds with thousands of people just after we recovered from the pandemic (if we had/have). So next year is the year of resurgence! Hopefully in many, many ways.

This years’ ride was canceled but the Resurgence Tour will occur on July 17th, 2021!

Fishing Season Postponed for Alpine, Inyo and Mono Counties

Our Chamber posted this up on its FB page this week:

We have received a lot of inquiries about the fishing opener, originally scheduled to kick off this weekend. Due to COVID-19 precautions and the limited resources in our small Eastern Sierra communities, the season opener has been delayed. “After talking with the county representatives, we agreed this was a necessary step toward being responsive to local needs in this public health emergency,” said CDFW Director Bonham. Read the full press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife here: https://bit.ly/2KuMi64. Fishing is at the heart of Alpine County, and we are looking forward to the opener as much as our visitors.”

Looks like we’ll have to wait until as late as the end of May, depending…But, as it turns out, the delay is not such a bad thing since the water (at least on the East & West Carson) is moving too fast and looks too much like chocolate milk.

Looking downstream at the East Fork of the Carson from Monitor Junction.

So, there you have it – our little weekend update.

Now get out and get some and be sure to do it safely and with the proper distance, k?

The Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership and its Potential Impact on California Alps Cycling

And no, I’m not talking strictly about the impact this project could have on our business. I’m referring more to the impact it can have on the Alps, and the Eastern Sierra region, as a whole. For more about California’s Alpine Zone though, click here for an overview, courtesy of the USFS.

The southern CA Alps – Looking towards Mammoth from near Bishop. Part of the amazing region on which this initiative is focused.

A little background…

The Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), an initiative that began in the spring of 2019 due to the largess of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Governing Board, authorized “$618,750 of Proposition 68 funding to go to the Town of Mammoth Lakes (on behalf of the regional partnership) to administer the Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative.”

The partnership could potentially implement the following, depending on the outcome of the review and prioritization that has begun to take place here in the Eastern Sierra:

  • New trails and facility planning and construction
  • New and existing “hard infrastructure” including bathrooms, pavement maintenance, water, sewer, other buildings
  • Maintenance and staffing of visitor centers
  • County/Town recreational infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation, and new project Identification and work program development
  • Project planning including environmental review
  • Permitting facilitation and clean-up

The Partnership not only includes the town of Mammoth Lakes, but also the counties of Alpine, Inyo and Mono as well as the city of Bishop. Two (2) regions of the United States Forest Service (USFS) are also involved. Click here to learn more.

The first meeting of the “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” working group. Yours truly is humbled to be a member of this group representing California Alps Cycling and more importantly, the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

What’s that mean for the California Alps and California Alps Cycling?

In our mind it means that visitors to the Alps, especially cyclists, gravel riders and mountain bikers (hey, this is a cycling blog after all!) could have more support when they visit. As some of you may know, infrastructure in Alpine County is a bit limited. I’m talking about public bathrooms, showers, and such. Our Chamber of Commerce, as well as other businesses in Alpine Co., do provide some of this but we need more. Other counties in the Alps (think Mono for example) do have better support systems but even they need additional support. As I’ve heard from some fellow attendees at our meetings, some of their infrastructure is a bit dated or limited. So, the idea behind this approximately two (2) year initiative is to vet and prioritize projects for which we can then seek grant money. “We” being the region, not just Alpine, or Mono, or Mammoth, for example. This regional approach will allow for much more comprehensive benefits. E.G. what helps Mammoth Lakes could help Inyo county; what Alpine county does or will do may be scalable to other areas.

Skin in the game…

It’s not just about marketing to get MORE PEOPLE to the region. It’s MORE ABOUT getting people who are already here, or coming here, to be MORE INVOLVED. And having skin in the game is a vital component to that approach. Meaning:

  • Are visitors educated on what to do and how to act? For example, are they aware of best practices like where to poop (a big topic at our 12-11 meeting) and how to “leave no trace?”
  • Do visitors care about the region?
  • Do they want to help improve and maintain it?
  • Are they willing to educate their families, peers and friends about it?

More to follow…

As I mentioned earlier in this post, this is a two (2) year initiative so there is definitely more to follow. The next public workshop is on January 16th in Lone Pine. Then, in February, is the 2nd “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” meeting in Mammoth. I’ll be attending both and will continue to provide updates on our progress. In the meantime, if you have anything to add, please let me know.

Happy New Year!

We wish you all a happy and healthy 2020 and we thank you for being a loyal reader of our blog and if you’re a member of California Alps Cycling, you get an extra THANK YOU! Together we can accomplish a lot. Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! in the coming year. There are oh so many to choose from, right?