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Developer has plans for Bodie resort

by Christy Chalmers

Bodie, Calif., the ghost town famous for its carefully preserved state of “arrested decay,” may soon have a new, modern neighbor to cater to visitors.

The Mono County Planning Department is accepting comments on the proposed Bodie Hills RV park, a seasonal resort which would include a general store, 10 motel rooms, a museum, 32 RV spaces, tent and cabin camping and laundry and shower facilities. A pair of single-family homes for employees is also planned.

The development is proposed for 13 acres straddling Highway 270, known as the Bodie Road. The property is located just east of the intersection of Highways 270 and 395.

Bodie, which peaked in the 1870s with the discovery of rich gold deposits, is now a state park. Rangers live in some of the old houses and have kept the town in a state of arrested decay – preserving its old wooden buildings without adding any noticeable improvements. Visitors can peer into a schoolroom where desks are still littered with books, a store with wares still arranged neatly on the shelves and homes still furnished with whatever their residents couldn’t carry when they left.

Visitors must travel over a dirt road to get to Bodie; the closest modern town is Bridgeport.

Gwen Plummer, assistant planner for the Mono County Community Development Dept., said the current version of the RV park is a revision of an earlier plan. Area residents raised concerns about impacts to the environment, as well as Bodie, even though the town is several miles from the proposed RV park.

“I think people kind of feel like when you start on that highway and travel in, it’s kind of the Bodie experience,” said Plummer. “We got a lot of comments.”

Wellington resident Bill Lapham, whose family owns the land and proposed the park, said the plans have been in the works for six years, and concerns about environmental impacts and other issues have been addressed and resolved.

“I’m confident nothing can hold it up now,” he said.

The RV park originally proposed 39 spaces, but has been scaled back to 32. The size of the spaces has also been reduced from what was previously sought.

The development would straddle Clearwater Creek, which parallels part of the road to Bodie. Documents submitted to Mono County say the RV spaces and a 14-space tent camping area would be located on the south side of the creek, with eight camping cabins on the north side.

Three road bridges and a pedestrian bridge are also planned, along with landscaping to screen the project from view.

Lapham said the project will be built in three phases, with the first to include the motel and store, followed by the RV park and the camping facilities.

He said planners have taken care to preserve the creek and other natural attributes.

“We’re not going to touch the creek. That will be set aside for natural habitat,” Lapham said. “Everything will fit into the area. There will be no roads cut, no plateaus graded for the structures and no trees will be cut. We’ve got this thing down to where nothing is going to be disturbed.”

A project summary provided by Mono County lists visual impacts in the “significant unmitigatible effects” category, despite efforts to minimize them.

Possible alternatives include not allowing the project, reconfiguring it or moving it to another site. Not allowing the project is described as “environmentally superior” because environmental impacts would not occur, but it would defeat the project’s objective of developing “a mix of overnight accommodations and services for the Bodie visitor in a rustic environment that complements the historic character of Bodie State Historic Park,” the report says. As a result, not allowing the project isn’t considered an acceptable alternative.

Plummer said Mono County will accept public comment on the proposal until Sept. 30. The Mono County Board of Supervisors will have ultimate discretion for approval or denial.

Comments can be sent to Mono County at P.O. Box 347, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 93456 or by e-mail at monocounty@qnet.com.