By Deb Murphy
How long has Big Pine’s Veterans Path been around? Let’s just say if your bike had training wheels when it was first brought up, you’d be getting your driver’s license by now.
According to Fourth District Supervisor Mark Tillemans, a native Piner, the effort to provide safe passage from the east corner of Baker Creek Road and U.S. Highway 395 to the Veterans Memorial, site of the Roosevelt Pine and massive flag pole, at Highway 168, started with the Big Pine Civic Club in 2007.
The project was linked with the re-paving of the parking lot at the site in a grant proposal to tap into funding through Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Environmental Public Benefits block grants. The Great Basin funds represent fines levied against Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for air pollution off Owens Lake.
Funds were available in 2014.
The project went from the Civic Club to the American Legion Post 457 in Big Pine, a registered non-profit and logical lead as every Memorial Day, the Post pays homage to the community’s soldiers. Anyone who wants to walk to the annual ceremony has to hope they’re not plowed down as vehicles accelerate to full-throttle highway speeds just feet away. The road shoulder is narrow along the south end of the proposed path, leaving very little margin for error.
The parking lot was repaved but there’s still no Veterans Path. The hang-up, ironically, is LADWP. The path would take up a 6-foot by roughly a quarter-mile of the City’s land.
Tillemans and County Administrator Kevin Carunchio went through the history of the issues at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting. The County had to request an extension from Great Basin so the funds wouldn’t be pulled. Considering the difficulty of negotiations and an inevitable deadline for completion, the County also had to advise Great Basin of a possible replacement project, paving the parking lot at Lone Pine’s VFW post.
Initially, the County figured the more efficient way to get the path done was to reimburse DWP for the cost of construction. LADWP’s come-back was for the County to take the lead, lease the land from DWP, perform environmental work, get all the necessary permits, get the design work done and then reimburse DWP for the cost of construction.
The full details of the project’s progression through the red tape are mind-numbing. It took five months to get a Right of Entry from the City. When the County asked for a lease or license to begin the required work at the site, DWP asked for a Memorandum of Understanding before anything further could be done. That took nearly a year.
In the interim, DWP wanted Inyo to buy an easement for approximately $17,000.
Fast forward to this past summer—the City asked for an annual $1,416 license fee; Inyo countered with an offer of an annual $1 license fee. Since then DWP has rejected that offer and is considering the County’s other comments and requests, according to Tuesday’s Board materials.
The Supervisors concluded that if they couldn’t get a reasonable agreement with LADWP by the end of April, the Path project would be replaced with the paving project in Lone Pine.