Mono County’s Final Dispersed Camping Summit Spells Out the Message

Dispersed camping is pervasive, and often the camper have no choice when organized campgrounds are full.

After three months of preparation for the migration of visitors to the Eastern Sierra, the Dispersed Camping Summit’s subcommittees made their presentation of plans and materials at the final session held on-line May 25.

The cause of the chaos, outlined by facilitator Paul McFarland of the DeChambeau Creek Foundation, is fairly obvious. Last summer, Southern California decided the best way to escape COVID-19 restrictions was to hit U.S. Hwy. 395 and hide in the Sierra Nevada. “Dispersed camping has increased over the years, “McFarland said. “But COVID kicked it up. We all have a stake in coming up with solutions. Living here comes with responsibilities.”

Alicia Vennos’ education subcommittee focused on their “Camp like a pro,” message and the sub-message “Poo like a pro,” in rack cards, the Visitor Center in Mammoth, on Internet road and weather reports as well as social media sites.

The home for all the Dispersed Camping collateral material is www.essrp.org/camping with the intent to use that website to build relationships with the visiting public. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has offered up its sign shop for print collateral materials.

Matt Paruolo’s mapping subcommittee’s will be key to identifying conventional campsites, areas where dispersed camping is allowed and those where it is definitely not legal. With its home on the ESSRP website, users can be directed to all relevant camping directives like fire restrictions and closures.  Accessible online, and downloadable when online is impossible, the map has the added advantage of letting hikers and campers know where they are.

Stewardship subcommittee chair Alex Ertaud described his dilemma as “a popular restaurant without enough people to do the dishes.” Again, the bridge between willing volunteers and those who need volunteers is the Internet, specifically www.volunteereasternsierra.org with a list of agency and group contacts.

Both John Wentworth’s infrastructure and Sheriff Ingrid Braun’s enforcement committees came up with relatively simple solutions. Wentworth, with Rick Cattleman, worked up a spreadsheet identifying where dumpsters and porta-potties were needed, an adoption program to secure both and a link to Paruolo’s map. Braun stressed one point of contact (the Sheriff’s phone number 760-932-7549, ext. 7) for reports of bad actors or potential disasters. The Sheriff’s Department has also developed an ordinance to restrict overnight camping in residential areas.

It’s probably too early to check with organizer Bob Gardner and his crew of subcommittee chairs and land managers to find out if the messages and protocols had an impact on dispersed camping over the Memorial Day weekend, but we’ll check back with Gardner in the next week or two.

 

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