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The Lone Pine Chamber’s nightmare before Christmas

November 28, 2012

The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce canceled its traditional Christmas parade this year because it was unable to meet state requirements to receive permits for the event. Residents who would still like to participate in a local parade are invited to take part in the first-ever Electric Light Parade in Lone Pine this Saturday. File photo

Last-minute notification on state permit requirements, and an inability to meet those requirements in the timeframe given, has the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce feeling like the Grinch just stole the town’s Christmas.
The status of the annual Lone Pine Christmas Parade is in question – and at one point was said this week to be canceled altogether – because organizers were not aware of requirements Caltrans is enforcing for approving road closures and detours.
“Caltrans has changed the rules, and I don’t have enough time to get them what they need” in order to receive the permits for the parade, Chamber Executive Director Kathleen New said Tuesday, the same day she announced that the parade, scheduled for Dec. 8, had been canceled.
On Wednesday, Lone Pine business owner Jaque Hickman said she was attempting to step in and help facilitate whatever work needed to be done to ensure the parade can proceed next weekend as planned. New, however, remained doubtful that the traffic plan required by Caltrans – which must be certified by a civil engineer – can be completed in time. Caltrans has been offering since Tuesday to work with parade organizers as well.
Caltrans Traffic Engineer Terry Erlwein said that Caltrans District 9 did not change its guidelines for the encroachments permits needed to close a road for a parade, but is only enforcing rules that had been overlooked in recent years.
In the past, New said, the Chamber has been able to send a brief plan for its parade to Caltrans, informing the state agency of the proposed times for road closures and plans to have the California Highway Patrol conduct traffic control.
New said this year, Caltrans officials rejected her initial proposal, saying the Chamber needs to have a traffic plan certified by a civil engineer before it signs off on parade permits.
“For them to all of a sudden do this is just unbelievable to me,” New said, pointing out that Caltrans did not mention any new – or newly enforced – regulations or requirements for parade permits until Nov. 20, after she had submitted the traditional proposal. “For 20 years we have sent them a plan and the California Highway Patrol has done traffic control.”
After Caltrans rejected her proposal, New said, she attempted to find a civil engineer to sign off on the traffic plan in time to receive permits for the annual parade. However, she said, since there is no civil engineer employed by the Chamber or Inyo County, she was unable to find anyone who could review the plan in time for the Dec. 8 event.
Caltrans officials said Tuesday they contacted New that day, offering to help her develop an acceptable plan and obtain the necessary permits so the parade wouldn’t have to be cancelled.
New said she just didn’t have enough time to do the work Caltrans was asking her to do and plan the parade.
“I can’t make the plan, I’m not an engineer. For them to ask me to do something like this is unChristian,” New said. “If they would have let us know in January that they changed the rules – or in August, or any time,” the Chamber could have met the necessary guidelines to legally permit the parade.
Knowing what Caltrans expects, New said she doesn’t anticipate running into problems planning the Lone Pine Film Festival Parade or the Christmas parade next year, but she is disappointed that Santa won’t be making an appearance on Main Street this month.
“The Lone Pine Chamber is very, very sorry,” New said. “We really did believe we could have the parade. Why can’t Caltrans participate in the community? This is not the Rose Parade, it’s a 15-minute kids’ Christmas parade.”
Bishop Public Works Director Dave Grah said that his department is currently working to obtain all the information that Caltrans is requiring for the appropriate parade permits, and he is confident that Bishop’s parade will be held as planned on Dec. 8.
Erlwein said that Caltrans will continue to work with local organizations such as Mule Days and the Lone Pine Film Festival to ensure they are up-to-speed on the requirements for encroachment permits before they begin planning their parades.
New said that Lone Pine residents who were looking forward to the annual parade shouldn’t despair, as resident Rosie Gilmour is planning Lone Pine’s first Christmas Electric Light Parade this Saturday, Dec. 1.
Entries of all kinds – bicycles, floats, four-legged friends – are welcome to join. All entries will be decked out in Christmas lights as they head out from Locust Avenue at 4:30 p.m. en route to Lakeview Drive.
The grand marshals will be the senior citizens residing at Southern Inyo Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Unit, Gilmour said.
Sign-ups are welcome up until 4 p.m. the day of the parade. Donations are also welcome, and there is a $5 entry fee to help defray costs. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Geraldine Dodds family, who lost their home in a fire Monday morning.
For more information on the parade, call Gilmour at (916) 335-7553.
The status of the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce Parade will be reported on as the situation develops.

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