The Bighorn mountains have been a place of beauty and wonder for as long as people have lived in Wyoming. Now, thanks to a new network of trails, more people will have new opportunities to experience the beauty and wonder of the Bighorns than ever before.
Recently, the US Forest service approved Sheridan Community Land Trust’s (SCLT) proposal to create 15 miles of natural-surface, single-track, non-motorized recreational trails along the east slope of the Bighorns in proximity to Red Grade Road.
“These trails mean new opportunities for people to bike, new opportunities for people to hike, and new opportunities to ride horses in an area of the Bighorn National Forest that was more difficult for the community to access,” remarked Brad Bauer, SCLT Executive Director.
The proposed trails will extend up and out from the existing Red Grade Trails, a network of non-motorized recreational trails totaling six miles built and maintained by SCLT. The proposed network will include trails dedicated to hiking, biking, and equestrians, as well as many miles of shared-use trail.
“The new trails will make it easier for people to experience the Bighorns’ beauty without having to take a vehicle all the way up Red Grade Road. In effect, these trails will bring the forest down the mountain to more people,” Bauer reasoned.
Bauer explained that safety and sustainability were important drivers behind the plan. While SCLT’s trails will be new, they will allow existing dead-end trails and often erosion-prone social trails to be decommissioned. Similarly, three dedicated parking areas and trailheads will be developed in places already used by motorists on their way up the mountain. That, he pointed out, will help minimize dangerous interactions between vehicles and people.
While the new trails promise exciting opportunities for residents and visitors alike, Bauer stressed that SCLT will build trails only after final designs and funds for complete sections are secure. He hopes construction begins as early as the 2020 season.
The cost and timeline to safely and sustainably build those trails will be greatly reduced thanks to a partnership with EMIT Technologies. In July, the Sheridan-based company announced it would purchase and donate a mini-excavator, trailer and tools so SCLT could bring a dedicated trail builder on-staff as the land trust responds to a strong community desire for non-motorized recreation trails close to home.
“When it comes to our community, EMIT will continue to work towards making this an even better place. The work SCLT is doing to provide recreation trails and connect people with the places they love is vital to keeping our community strong,” said Casey D. Osborn, CEO of EMIT.”
And for that, Bauer is excited. He pointed to a survey conducted by Sheridan Parks & Recreation this spring that shows the desire for more non-motorized outdoor opportunities continues to grow locally. At 65%, walking and biking trails were far and away the top priority respondents identified.
“That’s 20% greater than the second-highest priority and about 20% greater than the national average,” Bauer relayed.
Since October more than 10,500 visitors have utilized SCLT’s trail network to hike, bike, run, walk, watch wildlife, ride horses, look at flowers, or just relax and enjoy the majestic views of open spaces unique to Sheridan County.
Bauer said he’s thankful for all the people who helped develop and review SCLT’s proposal, the careful consideration USFS personnel employed in reviewing the plan, and all of the people who took time to provide input throughout all stages of the comment and review process.
“The proposal is about new opportunities,” Bauer said and concluded. “We’re excited we’ll soon be able to provide those new opportunities for hikers, new opportunities for bikers, and new opportunities for horseback riders and for many other non-motorized users to explore and enjoy the beauty of the Bighorns.”
To help SCLT build Red Grade Trails, please consider making a donation. You can do by visiting our donation page>>