In the summer, almost 19 miles of trails on the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest received much-needed maintenance, and that work is set to continue this summer.
Wyoming Pathways, an organization that advocates for cyclists and walkers, announced about a month ago it received a $50,000 grant from the Wyoming Recreational Trails Program for trail maintenance on Pole Mountain.
Wyoming Pathways Executive Director Tim Young estimated this summer’s work would cost about $70,000, with funding also coming from the U.S. Forest Service.
Young described the summer’s work as Phase I in an ongoing effort to shore up a popular and heavily used trail system. Phase II will get underway this summer, he said, with work likely to continue in the future.
“Last year was the first start at fixing up the system trails up on Pole Mountain, which are loved dearly by everyone that gets to go up there,” he said.
Young traced the beginning of the project to a public meeting that took place in August 2016 to gather public perceptions about the trail system, which is used year-round by hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and skiers. The system sees visitors from Laramie, Cheyenne and even the Colorado Front Range.
Wyoming Pathways spearheaded the effort to secure funding through the Recreation Trails Program, which offers money for 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.
In 2017, volunteers contributed more than 3,000 hours of work on 18.6 miles of non-motorized Forest Service system trails, according to spokesman Aaron Voos. Wyoming Conservation Corps contributed to the effort along with local volunteers and a professional trail builder.
Young said the 2017 work consisted mainly of basic maintenance, such as making sure trails are able to shed water without causing erosion. This year, the work will focus on sections that need more substantive work or even re-routing.
“The goal is to make the trails up there both fun and exciting, but also sustainable so they don’t wear out so quickly,” Young said.
Again, he said, the plan includes hiring a professional trail builder, contracting with Wyoming Conservation Corps and enlisting volunteers.
Based on an assessment of trail conditions, Aspen and Middle Aspen trails would be the top priority, along with Headquarters Trail if possible.
“We certainly won’t run out of work,” Young said.
Voos said the Forest Service, which is contributing $14,400 to the project, has had a great relationship with Wyoming Pathways so far.
“They have been very proactive in pursuing the partnership with the Forest Service and subsequently these grants to make this happen,” he said.
Such partnerships will be critical for the Forest Service in coming years, he said.
“There’s going to be a sustained need for maintenance of those system trails for the future,” he said. “This is just the start, and Wyoming Pathways is helping us with that.”
Young said he expected that several more years of work would be needed to complete the renovation, but the project has momentum thanks to volunteer participation and cooperation between groups.
“People are excited in Laramie,” he said.