A trail-maintenance project on U.S. Forest Service trails at Pole Mountain is underway, with volunteer crews putting in hundreds of hours of work already.
Two Wyoming Conservation Corps crews have put in one 10-day work period already, with two more crews in the midst of another hitch.
Crews are working on a number of trails on the Pole Mountain Unit, including Aspen and Turtle Rock, both of which have experienced erosion from melting snow and rain.
On Aspen Trail, crews installed large rocks as a trail surface where it wasn’t feasible to re-route the trail to fix erosion. At Turtle Rock Trail, water runs down the middle of the trail in some places.
“The crews can repair the drainage, so the water flows off the trail, and it can make a dramatic difference in keeping your trails sustainable,” said Tim Young, Wyoming Pathways executive director.
A volunteer work day was June 3, with about 50 people from Laramie and Cheyenne pitching in as well.
“Everybody worked together and got some additional work done,” Young said.
Later, another couple dozen people took part in a two-day trail-building workshop led by the University of Wyoming Outdoor Program, with the intention of gaining expertise to lead future volunteer efforts.
Young said untrained volunteers can be a liability when it comes to trail work, as they might not fix the problem or even make matters worse.
“How you repair a trail is really important, and doing it properly with up-to-date, modern trail-design standards is very important,” Young said.
Grant funding allowed for the hiring of a professional trail consultant based in Boulder, Colorado, to lead the workshop, assess the trails and direct the maintenance work.
The Pole Mountain Trail Maintenance Project was initiated by Wyoming Pathways, a nonprofit organization based in Wilson, when it received a grant from the Wyoming Recreational Trails Program earlier this year.
U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said trail maintenance would be limited to the 9 miles of system trails on the Pole Mountain Unit, which include trails such as Headquarters, Aspen and Turtle Rock.
Many more miles of trails exist in the area, but they’re not officially part of the Forest Service system.
Voos said the project would be a good start in addressing the current condition of the trails, which are heavily used by visitors from Laramie, Cheyenne and even the Colorado Front Range.
“There’s just an amazing amount of deferred maintenance and a backlog of maintenance on trails on the national forest,” he said in an earlier interview.
As Wyoming Conservation Corps finishes its work, Wyoming Pathways will prepare a report about what was accomplished as well as possible next steps, Young said.
He’s hoping non-system trails might someday be incorporated into the official Forest Service system, allowing for better maintenance.
“There are almost as many non-system trails that are equally heavily used and appreciated,” he said.
The Wyoming Recreational Trails Program offers funding for both motorized and non-motorized projects on public lands in the state. Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails administers the program using funds from the Federal Highway Administration.
Wyoming Pathways is still accepting donations to cover project costs not funded by the grant. Donations can be made at www.wyopath.org.
Another volunteer work day is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 30, which is National Public Lands Day.