In just two weeks DeathValley.com learned of the passing of two friends.
On August 8th we lost the unique wit and charm of Don Connolly, the beloved "Mayor of Panamint Valley."
Countless Death Valley tourists remember Don Connolly as the "informative" caretaker of the Ballerat ghost town and proprietor of the general store there. His friends and regular visitors would keep company with him at the Ballerat store underneath the only decent shade for miles around. For years he enjoyed the self-bestowed, yet widely honored title of Mayor of Panamint Valley, and he openly enjoyed and shared in all of the privileges thereof.
Don also workied at Panamint Springs with then owner Jerry Graham, and later made Ridgecrest his home. Click here to read the thoughts of some of Don's friends on our Death Valley Talk forum. Don was 67.
On August 10th we lost another friend, Robert Funkhouser, the co-founder of the Western Slope No Fee Coalition.
Robert dedicated the last years of his life to the goal of keeping public lands free and open to all. He worked toward the goal of rolling back, first the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (Fee Demo), and later the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which replaced Fee Demo and made access fees for Forest Service and BLM lands permanent.
At the time of his death, he was extremely optimistic about legislation being drafted by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) that promises to roll back the worst fee abuses by the public lands agencies.
Our first Guest Opinion article here at DeathValley.com was that by Robert. Click here to read his May 19, 2007 submission . To learn more about Robert and his work, visit the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition web site . Robert was 50.
Furnace Creek Road has been closed to motorized vehicles under an interim order for more than four years, and it remains closed pending the outcome of the current plan amendment process. The proposal affects only the lower 3.75 segment of the road that is located on BLM managed lands, whereas the remaining 7.5 miles of the 100+ year old road remain closed by order of the Inyo National Forest.