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The 2008 Mammoth Lakes (Caifornia) Trails and Access Master Plan is a model for how partnerships can create positive public exposure for the field of trail planning and design.

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

arrow Download the Town of Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Master Plan (pdf 3.7 mb)


Creating a Trails and Public Access Plan for the Town of Mammoth Lakes


photo of people at meeting

Participants in the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access
Strategic Conference

The collaborative efforts of Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) and the Town of Mammoth Lakes have benefited the public, private and non-profit sectors by promoting an inclusive, open process for making trails the centerpiece of this unique Eastern Sierra resort community. It is inspiring for other communities to note that this is a new initiative started less than 3 years ago in response to a single issue, and that quickly evolved into a well organized trails movement throughout the community.

In 2006, Mammoth Lakes was faced with issues that many communities have to deal with: increasing development and the loss of access to trails and outdoor recreation. Unlike most communities, Mammoth had local individuals, particularly John Wentworth, who were willing to get organized to create a positive solution. John, a former film producer from Los Angeles, is an avid backcountry skier. He had seen developers cut off access to his favorite trails in the area called the Sherwins. John quickly organized a new non-profit called MLTPA to change the way the community was developing, and to make Mammoth a trail-oriented community.

In November, 2006, MLTPA hosted a Strategic Planning Conference, and invited Jeff Olson of Alta Planning + Design to serve as facilitator. During the event, MLTPA established a board of directors, created a fundraising plan, and identified priorities.

photo of bikes in mountains

Mountain biking above Mammoth Lakes (Photo by Christian Pondella)


Within the next month, the organization was incorporated, had a website on-line and had begun fundraising. Rather than focus on individual projects, MLTPA chose to look at the big picture, and set out to create a new Trails and Public Access Master Plan. MLTPA initiated GIS data collection in cooperation with Town Staff, and entered into a partnership agreement with the Town to share funding for the plan.

During these first steps, MLTPA and the Town of Mammoth Lakes worked together to include the US Forest Service, National Parks Service, community leaders and businesses. Mammoth Mountain Resort became a leading partner, and a Developers’ Forum was created to engage the private sector in the planning process. MLTPA also established a Trails Forum to bring together the wide range of trails users in the region, including representatives of non-motorized and motorized trail organizations. Cooperative agreements were put in place, and the Town developed an RFP for the Master Plan. Alta Planning + Design was selected as the lead consultant for the plan, along with IMBA Trail Solutions (soft-surface trails), Beneficial Designs (universal access), and Corbin Design (wayfinding).

photo of family on roadside trail

Highline Canal trail is one of Colorado's system of irrigation corridor trails

The planning process was centered around two signature Concept and Master Planning (CAMP) community events: CAMP Summer and CAMP Winter. The events were organized to include field tours, keynote presentations, public input and detailed working sessions with project partners. The result was two complimentary ‘articulations’ of the Town’s trail system: a "summer" system based on hiking, mountain biking, ADA access, equestrian trails and other uses, and a "winter" system that includes skiing, OSV use, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and other seasonal trails. The professional quality of MLTPA’s materials and the support of the Town and Planning Partners made these events a big success.

The draft Trails and Public Access Master Plan was submitted in May, 2008, and will soon be followed by a referendum on a ½ cent sales tax dedicated to trails and recreation. The Town is moving forward with an integrated vision of a trail-oriented, four season community with a recreation economy. This would not have happened without the unique partnership led by MLTPA and the Town of Mammoth Lakes.

Participants in the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Strategic Conference included the public, private and non-profit sectors. The US Forest Service, local developers, Mammoth Mountain Resort, Town staff and MLTPA board members are part of this innovative trail partnership.

Selected Projects identified in Trails and Public Access Master Plan process

Signage and Wayfinding Program: Consistent graphics, information, and communications are an important part of creating a high-quality trails system. Developing a signage and wayfinding program is an integral element of the Mammoth Lakes community’s identity and public image.

Interpretation and Heritage Trails Information System: A Geographic Information System (GIS) can be used to create a database, user maps, and public information for interpretive and heritage elements of the trails system. The region’s landscape has a significant natural and human history that can be told through the region’s trails. Examples include the story of John Muir, the forces of geology, and the management of the Los Angeles water supply system.

Complete the In-Town Loop: The existing Mammoth Creek Trail and other sections of the paved paths within the town center represent important pieces that need to be connected into a complete loop trail. This loop will form the core of the trail system within the Urban Growth Boundary.

Develop a Perimeter Edge Trail: Mammoth Lakes has the unique potential to connect the Mammoth Rock Trail and other existing singletrack trails into a perimeter trail around the community’s edge. This trail can help define the community’s boundary with the adjacent Sierra frontcountry, and can serve as a gateway for access points to the backcountry.

Plan for All Trail Users: The Mammoth Lakes region has opportunities for all types of trail users, ranging from snowmobiles and ATVs to wilderness hiking, mountain biking, and Nordic and backcountry skiing. It is important for MLTPA to clearly state that all of these trail types are part of the planning process, and that, with the permission of land managers, these multiple uses can coexist in the region.

Ensure ADA Access: “Public Access” must include providing access for people with disabilities. While not all trails can be made accessible for everyone, the trail system must be planned to include the greatest range of accessibility possible, and trail information systems should be designed to communicate trail surfaces, grades, and other important information to people of all ages and abilities.

No Net Loss of Trails and Public Access: The GIS inventory conducted by MLTPA indicates more than 150 existing points of access to the region’s public lands. This inventory can form a baseline to ensure that as the community grows, access is maintained to and from these lands. A flexible approach can be based on a concept of “no net loss,” so that access is considered a part of the region’s infrastructure planning. This approach is similar to the way that wetlands impacts are managed.

Funding Applications: The California Transportation Department currently has funding available from the State Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA) and Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S) programs. The Town of Mammoth Lakes currently has two sections of the in-town loop trail that qualify for these funding sources, and is preparing the funding applications. In addition, the national Bikes Belong coalition provides grants to advocacy organizations like MLTPA.

Proposition 84 Funding Application: On Election Day, California voters approved Proposition 84, which will provide significant funding for Water Quality, Safety, and Supply, Flood Control, Natural Resource Protection, and Park Improvements. This will provide another opportunity for trails and public-access funding in the Mammoth Lakes region.

Trails and Transit: As the public transit system grows in Mammoth Lakes, there are opportunities to connect trailheads and transit stops to provide increased access and mobility for the community. Bike and ski racks can be provided on buses and trolleys, and the planning of trails and transit routes can be coordinated.

Art on the Trails: A great way to involve the community in trails is to develop art on the trails. This can include sculptures designed as “mile points,” custom-designed “hitching posts” for equestrians and bicyclists, and storytelling and music performed along the trails. These creative initiatives will reach segments of the community that might not otherwise get involved in trails, and can create a unique identity for the Mammoth Lakes trail system.

Four-Season Trails/Nordic System: The Mammoth Lakes trail system can help diversify the region’s economy by providing a wide range of four-season experiences. Examples include the new Nordic Trails initiative, which will create new cross-country skiing opportunities,

arrow Download the Town of Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Master Plan (pdf 3.7 mb)

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