By Deb Murphy

A couple of things stood out during the presentation of the Saline Valley/Warm Springs Management Plan at last week’s Inyo Board of Supervisors meeting: Hippie culture is old enough to be considered historic and nudity is totally cool, unless you’re a burro.

When the completion of the draft plan by Death Valley National Park staff was announced, there was a ripple of fear the ambiance of the remote place would be ruined. That’s not going to happen.

As for the burros, they’ll be fenced out of the springs and camping areas. Planner Abby Wines estimated there are roughly 4,000 of the fuzzy little creatures who call the desert home. The goal is zero. The Park has partnered with Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue to trap and relocate 2,500.

Here’s a brief rundown of the Park’s preferred alternative draft plan:

  • Camping will require permits and be limited to 30 days. The details of how permitting will be handled have yet to be worked out.

  • The palm trees, not native to the area, will be removed from the upper, undeveloped spring. The rest will be allowed to die a natural death and any volunteers will be removed.

  • While the Chicken Strip, aka landing strip, is technically illegal, it has not been identified as such and the Park will promote it as if it is legal. Not sure how that’s going to work, but the Recreation Aviation Foundation has a Memorandum of Understanding to maintain the strip.

  • The Auto Shop, aka vehicle support shack, will be removed. That caused some concern among the Supervisors considering the area is, literally, far out. However, Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds explained the guy who runs the shop is a 70-year old retired mechanic who lives in the valley year-round. “The chances of replacing him is zero,” Reynolds said. The operation is not sustainable.

  • A lot of the artwork is old enough to be considered historical features and will remain. Artwork on the ground will be removed and no new art projects will be allowed.

  • Most of Inyo County’s concerns have been addressed. The County had noted the full range of development, specifically intensive development, had not been included. None of the Supervisors wanted to see a plan that included intensive development.

Board members had some questions, but generally liked the draft alternative plan. Noting the planning process took six years, Supervisor Matt Kingsley, whose fifth district includes Saline, asked that implementation be done at the same leisurely pace to give visitors a chance to get used to the changes.

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