Summer Love for Lander Sinks Canyon and Laramie Pole Mountain Trails and What’s Next
This past summer was a busy one for Wyoming Pathways, as our focus shifted to trails. Following on the heels of a successful Wyoming Bike Walk Trails Summit in Jackson in May, we began looking ahead to two major trail building and maintenance projects in Lander and Laramie. Known as the “Lander Sinks Canyon Brewer’s Trail Extension Project” and the “Pole Mountain Trail Project Phase 2”, the projects were initiated and managed by Wyoming Pathways, who also procured the bulk of the funding. The projects brought together the resources of various groups and the local communities to invest a combined value of over $200,000 in our public lands and greatly improve the trails near Lander and Laramie.
The Lander project, with a goal of completing a four mile extension of the “Brewer’s Trail” in Sinks Canyon, was done in partnership with the Shoshone National Forest, Lander Cycling, the Wyoming Conservation Corps (WCC) and professional trail builder Adam Buck and his company Pathfinder Trail Builders, with additional support coming from the Lander community.
The Pole Mountain project, with a goal of continuing the much-needed maintenance begun in Phase 1 of the project, was done in partnership with the Medicine Bow National Forest, the WCC, and Laramie’s new trail advocacy group, Common Outdoor Ground (COG). Once again, the Laramie community stepped up to support the project as well.
Funding for the projects came from a wide variety of sources. For the Brewer’s Trail Extension, primary funding came from Musser Family Foundation, National Forest Foundation and Lander Chamber of Commerce grants, with community funding and Wyoming Pathways contributions rounding out the over $100,000 invested in the project. For the Phase 2 of the Pole Mountain Trail Project, primary funding came from a Wyoming Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant, USFS Challenge Cost Share funds, and contributions from Wyoming Pathways and the Laramie community, applying nearly another $100,000 in value to the project.
Although scheduled to begin later in the Summer, after the Lander project, boots and tools first hit the ground at Pole Mountain, as the WCC was able to provide a “bonus” work crew to do some early-season maintenance work on the Pole Mountain trails. Led by Wyoming Pathways Chairman, Bruce Burrows, the crews were able to complete a much-needed trail reroute on the Rocky Ridge section of the Headquarters trail. This bonus work was a harbinger of things to come when the main project began in mid-July, with feedback from trail users, including the Laramie Mountain Bike Series racers, giving the new section of trail a big “thumbs-up”.
The Brewer’s Trail Extension Project
Following the early-season bonus work in Laramie, the Brewer’s Trail extension project in Lander got into full swing in mid-June. This project was a bit of a departure, in that the trail building would be done primarily by machine, with hand crews following behind to do the finish work. Fortunately, A
dam Buck and Pathfinder were experts in this type of trail building, which promised to deliver a higher volume of trail than might otherwise be possible with hand-building alone. This method also posed the additional challenge of maneuvering machinery in a difficult building environment, but as we soon discovered, the professionals were more than up to the task.
After overcoming a bumpy start, both from a project management and logistics perspective, work began in earnest. Adam’s machine-focused crew and the WCC’s hand-building crew developed a synergy that enabled them to add an impressive amount of high quality trail to the system each day as the project progressed. This continued through to the end of the project, with over 19,000 lineal feet of trail built in a period of just over four weeks.
Feedback from all those involved in the project and those using the new trail has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the new trail, subsequently named “Upper Brewer’s” was featured at the annual Jurassic Classic Mountain Bike Festival and received rave reviews and we couldn’t be more pleased. A new gem has been added to the Sinks Canyon trail system and trail users have a new reason to visit and enjoy Lander.
Although the work on Upper Brewer’s Trail is done, there is still plenty of work to be done in Lander with regard to trails. Wyoming Pathways hopes to keep the trail momentum going by holding a Lander Trail Charrette in 2019. The Charrette will bring land agencies and the community together to develop a shared vision for trails in the region. Look for more on the Charrette in the coming months.
Pole Mountain Trail Project – Phase 2
Due to the success of the initial phase of the Pole Mountain Trail Project, Wyoming Pathways was able to secure a second Wyoming Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to fund additional maintenance and improvement of the trails at Pole Mountain in the Medicine Bow National Forest. This phase of the project would focus on major reroutes of two of the busiest trails in the Pole Mountain system, Headquarters and Aspen, to make them more sustainable and enjoyable by a wider range of trail users.
Once again, Adam Buck and Pathfinder were retained as the professional trail consultants, along with the WCC, in the hopes that they could continue their productive partnership on the trails at Pole Mountain. Work began in mid-July and those hopes we met as the crews worked together through the remainder of July and into early August to complete nearly two miles of sustainable and fun reroutes of the following trail sections:
Headquarters East – Over 2,100 feet of new reroute.
Headquarters Double Bypass – Over 2,600 feet of new reroute.
Middle Aspen 1 – Over 5,000 feet of new reroute on three separate sections
One of the nice surprises of the project was that the Forest Service requested that the reroutes be “mountain bike optimized”, which reflected the changing demographics of trail users and resulted in sustainable and fun trails that were more accessible to a wider group of users. User feedback has been overwhelmingly positive as can be seen in this recent article in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle by Amber Travsky.
Bouyed by another successful project, Wyoming Pathways is in the process of applying for another RTP grant for Phase 3 of the Pole Mountain Trail Project. We hope to learn early in 2019 if we will once again be giving some Summer Love to the trails at Pole Mountain.