Great Trails Wyoming
Trails are an integral part of Wyoming’s history. From prehistoric Native American trails to the homesteaders’ Oregon Trail, the movement of people around the state has depended on trails. While today’s highway system has replaced the horse and walking as our modern transportation system, recreational trails, nevertheless, remain an incredibly important component of Wyoming’s basic infrastructure.
Today, well-designed trail systems are considered necessary to support active recreation programs for bicycling, walking, and cross-country skiing. Trail systems have become important to travel and tourism industry growth. They often carry weight in the quality-of-life equation that businesses calculate when deciding whether to open new ventures in a given location. Likewise, good local trail systems are critical to support the proven health benefits of active living.
Wyoming Pathways will be a strong advocate for all types of non-motorized trails in Wyoming. Our efforts will include participation in the Wyoming Legislature’s discussions to support future trail funding programs for the state’s recreational trail needs. We’ll work to ensure the discussion includes non-motorized trails for mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing as legitimate recreation activities that benefit Wyoming’s economy, communities, and residents.
One positive sign is that Governor Matt Mead agreed to continue the Recreational Trails Program in 2013. This program provides critical funding for both motorized and non-motorized trails. In 2012, the U.S. Congress gave states the option to “opt out” of the RTP program, but due to strong demand, the Governor Mead has decided to continue it. Wyoming Pathways applauds Governor Mead’s support. We recommend he continue the program in 2014 and beyond.
Wyoming has a well-established motorized trail program, and recently started a complimentary non-motorized program. Wyoming Pathways commends this initiative and supports expansion of the non-motorized program. This support extends to state parks projects like Curt Gowdy and Glendo parks’ new trail systems, and the potential for new, non-motorized trail partnerships with federal land managers and community groups.
We’ll support Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Department’s efforts to develop a robust non-motorized trail program and help demonstrate public support for the program. Additional efforts will include tracking progress on the State Long Range Trail Plan non-motorized goals and assisting with the “action steps” identified in the plan.
Federal Land Trails:
Federal lands in Wyoming comprise 48 percent of the total state land area. They include national forests, national parks, Bureau of Land Management lands, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service units, and other federal lands. These lands collectively provide the vast majority of all public trail opportunities in Wyoming. They are crucial for the future of recreational trails in the state.
Yet, today, federal land managers face significant challenges due to major reductions in trail funding programs. They have seen cuts of 20-30 percent during the past five years. This is unsustainable and is beginning to affect Wyoming’s hiking and biking trails, which will hurt tourism and affect our quality of life here.
To help address this unfortunate situation, Wyoming Pathways has been meeting with land managing agencies statewide. We have begun a dialog on the funding needs for trails and pathways. We are gathering data on cuts to federal agencies’ trail budgets, and we will translate that into language that Wyoming leaders understand and are concerned about.
We also are helping to research the needs of public land pathway and trail facilities in Wyoming, including maintenance backlogs, proposed new trails, and unfunded trail improvement projects. We will prepare agency-specific recommendations on Wyoming’s public trails needs for the Forest Service, BLM and National Park Service. We will present these recommendations to agencies, the governor’s office, and the Wyoming Delegation.
Partnerships, stewardship, and volunteers are increasingly important to agencies and public trails users. Wyoming Pathways will help develop these community/agency partnerships and promote sustainable trail design training for agencies and trail volunteers.
To create the high-quality trail systems of the future, it’s necessary to participate in the major federal land management planning actions that affect non-motorized transportation and recreation on public lands in Wyoming. Wyoming Pathways will engage in these forest plan updates, travel plans, national park transportation and recreation plans, winter use plans, and capital construction programs, and work with local partners to help support good plans.
Wyoming Pathways’ demonstration projects will include trail projects that showcase the best of public land recreation in Wyoming. We’ll provide select local project support, in partnership with local groups, and support regional trail connections and interstate projects that benefit Wyoming communities by collaborating with partners in neighboring states.