With the water comes the fun, as is the case in Southern Inyo County with the return of water to the Lower Owens River. The once lush and green Owens Valley floor south of Big Pine, that became a desert after the water was taken by the City of Los Angeles, is turning back into a riparian area full of life and adventure.
The Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power want to know exactly what kind of fun people want to have there. The two are developing a recreation plan for the Lower Owens River Project and are asking the public for input.
“What would you do if you could make a new river and wetlands? How would you play on, preserve and enjoy the area?” asked Larry Freilich, Inyo County Mitigation Projects manager.
The agencies will be holding a series of open house forums and a field trip to discuss the LORP Recreation Plan.
The goal of the plan is to enhance opportunities for local and out of area recreational users, while supporting ranching operations, and protecting area cultural resources and the recovering river ecosystem. Resource conservation, improved recreational access and local economic development are fundamental elements of the community vision for the Lower Owens River area.
“If you fish, paddle, hike, hunt, photograph, picnic, bird, or simply like getting out in nature, you should be at one, or both of these unique open houses,” said Freilich, “Nature is coming back with a vengeance along the Lower Owens River and wetland areas, to see it is to want to enjoy it – and there are so many ways to do that.”
The planning area includes lands owned by LADWP on both sides of the 62 mile-long Owens River – including the Blackrock Waterfowl Management Area and off-river lakes and ponds – from south of Big Pine down to the Owens Lake Delta. The LORP is one of the largest and most expensive ecosystem restoration projects in the nation.
Before the return of water in 2006, the Lower Owens River area saw relatively low levels of recreational use. Now, the resurgence and recovery of the local ecosystem has resulted in increased use of the area by anglers, birdwatchers, hikers, boaters, and other user groups. Recreational use is predicted to continue to grow as local residents and out-of-area visitors discover the river and off-river resources.
The upcoming multi-day and multi-location open house format is designed to maximize participation by providing options and flexibility so people can come in during the day, or after work, and provide their input at an event that is most convenient for them.
The recreation consultant team MIG Inc., of Portland Ore., will run the public open houses.
Food and refreshments will be served at the open houses along with fun events for the entire family.
In addition to the open houses, naturalist-led field trips to the Lower Owens River will be offered on Saturday, May 7. Those interested in the field trips can sign up at the open houses, or reserve a spot by calling (760) 878-0001.
Workshop topics will include: types of recreation desired, location of recreational activities, key recreation access points; areas to limit or discourage use, transportation, signage and way finding, types of facilities to support recreation, other issues and opportunities.
Workshops locations and times:
• In Lone Pine from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 at Boulder Creek RV Resort (5 miles south of Lone Pine).
• In Independence from 3-6 p.m. on Friday, May 6 at Owens Valley School Multipurpose Room, 202 Clay St.
The river field trips will be Saturday, May 7, hosted by the Eastern Sierra Museum. Afterward, join in at the Friends of the Eastern California Museum Annual Deep Pit Barbecue ($12 adults, $8 children and seniors).
For more information, please call (760) 878-0001, or visit www.inyowater.org/LORP .