Trails on Pole Mountain have been getting some much-needed attention during the past three years. Trail maintenance is set to continue this summer, even as the Laramie Ranger District embarks on big-picture planning for non-motorized recreation across the entire unit.
Wyoming Pathways recently announced that it has received a $50,000 Wyoming Recreation Trails Grant, administered by Wyoming State Parks, to continue overhauling trails in the Happy Jack area for the fourth summer. This summer’s work is set to include a reroute of Aspen Trail and then a reroute of Haunted Forest.
The work will be undertaken in collaboration with multiple partners, including the Laramie Ranger District, Wyoming Conservation Corps, Common Outdoor Ground, University of Wyoming, Cycle Wyoming and Laramie BikeNet.
“The goal to bring those system trails back up to acceptable, sustainable standards,” said Tim Young, executive director of Wyoming Pathways. “Some of them are so damaged they become dangerous at a certain point.”
Last year, trail builders rerouted most of Aspen Trail, with about a quarter-mile still to go. Haunted Forest is another popular trail that runs down a steep hillside, inviting continual erosion.
“It runs straight down the gut of that gully there, and it’s become pretty damaged,” Young said. “It’ll be more sustainable and more fun.”
Wyoming Pathways is a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes non-motorized travel in Wyoming communities. The Recreation Trails Program distributes money to states that was collected from federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists. The money is used by states to build and maintain trails.
“Good things are in store for Pole Mountain, and the trails are getting better every year,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Laramie Ranger District is holding the first of a series of three public meetings at the end of March to gather input for the Pole Mountain Gateways project. Each of the three meetings will be held in both Laramie and Cheyenne.
The Laramie meeting is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. March 24 at the Albany County Fairgrounds. The UW Ruckelshaus Institute is facilitating the process.
The name reflects the designation of the 55,000-acre Pole Mountain Unit as a Wyoming Forest Gateway Community Priority Area under the National Trails Stewardship Act.
Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said public demand for more recreation options prompted the Gateways project.
“There’s a lot of public support behind getting it started,” he said.
Input from public meetings, tentatively to take place this spring and summer, will be used by the Forest Service to develop a project proposal this fall for non-motorized recreation on the unit, which sits a few miles east of Laramie. The entire process could take a couple years.
Voos said the Laramie Ranger District plans to examine everything related to non-motorized recreation, from trails to camping, facilities, signs, parking, access and more. System trails will be under scrutiny, as will user-created trails that could be pulled into the system. New trails could be proposed, and others could be decommissioned.
The desire of the public for travel between the Pilot Hill parcel, the national forest and Curt Gowdy State Park is also a consideration. The assumption that year-round visitation will continue to increase on the unit will also drive the project.
“We want to know how people want to use the forest in the future,” Voos said.
In anticipation of the Pilot Hill Project nearing completion, the Laramie Ranger District is developing a proposed connector trail that can transition users from that parcel onto national forest. The trail will be discussed at the meetings.
“We’ve been at the table every step of the way as (the Pilot Hill Project) moves forward, and we recognize the impact that will have in the national forest,” he said. “We’ve tried to accommodate that additional demand for recreational usage on that corner of the national forest with some sort of connector trail.”
The trail will be analyzed through a categorical exclusion, separate from environmental analysis of the Gateways project as whole.