The purchase agreement for the Pilot Hill Project has been amended and the closing date extended six months to March 2019. The Albany County Commission and owner Doug Samuelson agreed to the contract amendment last week.

Commissioners on Tuesday expressed pride in the Laramie community for making so much progress on such a major land acquisition in one year.

In September 2018, the Commission signed an agreement approving the purchase of 5,500 acres of private land east of Laramie, with the price set at $10.5 million, following an appraisal earlier this year. The original purchase agreement included a closing date scheduled for one year after the signing.

Since that time, the volunteer-based Pilot Hill Project Committee has been working to raise money for the purchase and ongoing management of the parcel. So far, more than 550 supporters have contributed or pledged almost $750,000. In addition to the purchase price, an estimated $5 million will be needed to build and maintain infrastructure to allow public access, such as parking lots and trails.

The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments is currently researching a potential land swap to acquire some or all of the acreage in exchange for landlocked parcels elsewhere in the county. A state exchange could cover a major portion of the purchase, but initial funding of at least $1.5 million will be required to open the area to the public.

OSLI assistant director Jason Crowder told the Laramie Boomerang he’s confident his office has enough disposable land to cover the bulk of the purchase.

Commissioner Terri Jones said she’s hopeful the county will be able to meet the new extended deadline.

“It just depends on how much time it takes for us to do all of these appraisals,” she said.

The Pilot Hill parcel stretches from the eastern edge of Laramie to the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest, and from near Pilot Hill south to Interstate 80. The Pilot Hill parcels in this purchase agreement overlie the Casper Aquifer recharge zone, which is a major or sole source of drinking water for Laramie residents and county residents living in or near the Laramie Range foothills.

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