I am a 30 year resident of Lee Vining, in Mono County, California. The direction that Inyo County takes with respect to renewable energy development will have important ramifications for your neighbors to the north in Mono County.

Mono County residents have strong connections to Inyo County. We visit our friends and relatives in your communities.  We frequent your restaurants, coffee shops, stores, markets and art galleries. We commute to jobs and educational opportunities and obtain medical and professional services here.  We look forward to your annual cultural events and festivals.

In winter and spring we escape from the cold to your deserts and in summer to your mountain peaks. Your charming towns and iconic scenic vistas are ingrained in our memories of decades of travel down and up the HWY 395 corridor.

This same corridor carries another essential linkage between Inyo and Mono Counties—tourists!  Car-loads and camper-loads of tourists make the journey up from Southern California through both our counties, to vacation in our towns and backyards. Many visitors come year after year and view the journey as a special pilgrimage, with favorite stops along the way.

Tourism, as the largest part of our economy, is dependent on this Southern California market.  Last year the Mono County Planning and Economic Development Departments along with the Tourism and Film Commission, undertook a study to understand the economic  strengths of Mono County and devise an Economic Development Strategy “that utilizes Mono County’s natural assets in a sustainable way in order to grow the economic opportunities and enhance the quality of life for the county’s residents and visitors while stewarding the natural environment”, Mono County Economic Development Strategy, 2014, www.monocounty.ca.gov/documents_sub/economic, go to eds_draft_7_1_13.pdf).

The data collected showed that fully 62% of Mono County residents are employed in tourism or related services.  In a visitor survey, over 86% stated they stopped to see the scenic views and vistas of the area, over 86% stopped to dine in local coffee shops and restaurants, more than 80% participated in outdoor recreation activities, and 56% learned about the natural history of the area (Table 18, pg. 43.)

The report explains: our anchor is tourism, which attracts visitors and visitor spending. This spending spurs employment and helps to generate real estate sales, which in turn helps to generate professional services employment.

Strategic objectives include:  retaining and expanding existing businesses, improving the region’s recreation-based infrastructure, expand tourism marketing, and diversifying the economy in a sustainable manner that complements the environment and local community.

One proposed action, out of many, is to pursue a Highway 395 National Scenic Byway Designation and a Corridor Management Plan. Mono County is in the first round of grant funding for this process and is already investing in Main Street Improvement Programs in various communities. The report also recognizes the high value of our ranching and agricultural sector in maintaining the ambiance and feel of Mono County.  It proposes developing both the local and visitor consumer market for a “Buy Local” Regional Food System to support county agriculture and strengthen the Mono County “brand.”

Inyo County is now faced with choices that will either embrace a viable future based on the strengths of our valuable assets, or one that will turn abruptly into uncharted territory– a future that could jeopardize the essential character of our region and the unique communities rooted here. Perhaps it’s time to step back and define the fundamental policies that will ensure that the right priorities will be identified and wise choices will be made.

Inyo County does have standing in the management decisions made for both City of Los Angeles and federal lands. It is the responsibility of the County in your General Plan to detail and commemorate the values that are at stake for your constituents so that they will be recognized and upheld in the state and federal environmental processes.

I believe that Mono County is moving in a positive direction because it has listened to its constituents and has supported a community-by-community visioning process that has helped build awareness of our common values and a consensus for the future. As your neighbors we want you to remember that your decisions affect us and our shared assets, too, and that the Eastern Sierra environment and its communities will benefit if we all work together.

Thank you.

Ilene Mandelbaum

One Response

  1. Lori Kostors

    What a great letter. Sounds like the powers-that-be in Mono County are on the right track! Shape up, Inyo County powers!


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