Tufa towers at Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierra near Bridgeport, Calif. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
The good news: Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve has been given a reprieve from the budget-chopping plan to shut 70 California State Parks by next summer.
The bad news: Visitors will have to pay a new fee to stop at the ancient saltwater lake in the Eastern Sierra near Lee Vining, Calif.
State parks announced Thursday that the Bodie Foundation has stepped forward and signed a contract to collect fees -- no word yet on how much -- at Mono Lake that would raise money to keep the park open. The nonprofit foundation was formed to preserve Mono Lake as well as two other parklands in the area, Bodie State Historic Park and Grover Hot Springs State Park. The three parks draw more than 570,000 visitors to the area, according to the announcement.
Mono Lake has long been a favorite spot for photographers, birdwatchers and visitors who come to see the bizarre tufa towers rising from its salty waters. The lake also attracts travelers from the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, just 13 miles away.
Officials in May announced the potential closure of 70 of California's 278 state parks to offset a looming budget crisis this year and in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Since then, three Northern California parks -- Tomales Bay, Del Norte Coast Redwoods and Samuel P. Taylor -- also have been removed from the closure list.