Wyoming Pathways 2020 Year-End Summary and Looking Ahead to 2021

 

With the end of a trying year in sight, here’s to a much better 2021! Despite the challenges, we are pleased to report remarkable progress to help Wyoming communities become more livable and healthier places through our advocacy efforts for biking, walking and trails. As always, we can only do this work because of your support of Wyoming Pathways, and we are especially grateful for your contributions this year.

One unexpected result the pandemic caused is for people to re-discover the simple joys and mental health benefits of just getting outside for a bike ride, taking a walk, enjoying a hike, and wow, did people ever – use of Wyoming’s pathways and trails set records statewide this year. In addition, when Tourism travel resumed in June, visitors were increasingly looking for these same experiences – fun, healthy, outdoors and easily socially distanced. This shows the important role biking, walking and trail facilities provide in term of livability, economic, and health benefits. In fact, Wyoming’s hard-working Bike Shop workers are considered essential. That’s for sure, as bike sales and repairs soared!

Looking ahead to 2021, Wyoming Pathways has a lot in store, from expanding our highly successful trail building partnerships, to continued advocacy as the statewide voice for active transportation, safe streets, and great trail systems for every community. We’ll be working harder than ever for better policies and support for biking, walking and trails, and we’re grateful for your continued support.

I hope you enjoy this brief look back at 2020, and the exciting new projects planned in 2021.

Cheers,

Tim Young, Executive Director

 

Thanks for Your Support – There’s Still Time for Year-End Giving!

The financial support we receive from you is critical for Wyoming Pathways to continue to be your statewide advocate for better biking and walking policies and infrastructure in Wyoming communities. There is still time make a tax-deductible gift to our organization in 2020 that will help us continue our work on your behalf in 2021. Even if you cannot make a financial gift, please consider supporting us as a Facebook follower, sign up for our email list, or simply by letting your friends and family know about Wyoming Pathways and what we do for Wyoming.

Support Wyoming Pathways:
https://www.wyopath.org/become-a-wyoming-pathways-member-or-partner/

or give directly to ongoing trail projects throughout the state via the

Wyoming Pathways Trail Fund:
https://www.wyopath.org/trail-fund/


2020 – Memorable and Forgettable, All at Once

Wyoming Pathways started 2020 excitedly looking forward to a busy and productive year with various events and projects planned all over the state. Planning was moving along for the 2020 Wyoming Active Transportation Bike Walk Trails Summit; we had a freshly approved Recreational Trails Program grant for the Pole Mountain Trail Project, and signed a Shoshone National Forest partnership to build more Togwotee Pass Continental Divide Trail. In addition, we had plans for new BLM trail projects in Lander and a grant to help Thermopolis with a Community Trail Plan.

Along with ongoing long-term projects like the Greater Yellowstone Trail (GYT) and the Teton Mobility Corridor BUILD Grant Project, plus state and federal policy advocacy, it made for a pretty full plate. Little did we know that looming on the horizon was the Covid-19 pandemic that would throw all of our plans, as well as everyone’s lives, into turmoil and change the way we approach almost everything.

As we near the end of crazy 2020, the good news is that we feel that we were able to make the best of a bad situation and still make great strides for biking and walking in Wyoming. As a nonprofit business, we were able to weather the economic challenges posed by the pandemic through a combination of creative fundraising, and the continued support of our donors, both large and small. We are so very grateful for the donations this year, thank you!

Although we were forced to cancel the Casper in-person Wyoming Bike/Walk/Trails Summit, we were able to leverage technology and keep momentum for Active Transportation going via our well-attended Wyoming Active Transportation four-part Webinar Series. We were also able to take advantage of the relative safety of being outdoors to complete all of our trail projects safely and successfully. Substantial progress was made shepherding long-term projects, like an updated Concept Plan and Map of the progress underway on the Greater Yellowstone Trail.

The big bold success of 2020 has to be winning the Teton Community BUILD Grant, a $28 million pathway, complete streets, and transit project, in the middle of a pandemic no less. Wyoming Pathways leadership was instrumental to envision and help Teton County and six partner agencies prepare the BUILD Grant. In September, US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced a $20 million federal Teton Communities BUILD grant, the largest ever awarded anywhere in Wyoming for an active transportation project.

Being flexible and open to new opportunities when they arose allowed us to have what has amounted to a very successful year.


Select 2020 Highlights:

Active Transportation Infrastructure – In 2020, Wyoming Pathways continued its support and guidance of large and ongoing biking and walking construction projects, including the Greater Yellowstone Trail and the new Teton Mobility Corridor BUILD Grant Project. Both of these projects are focused on developing integrated multi-modal transportation systems that will provide safe and enjoyable biking and walking experiences in the region and enhance opportunities for visitors to experience our National Forests and National Parks car-free, by fun and efficient bicycle tours.

Trail Building – On the trail building front, 2020 was Wyoming Pathways’ most productive year yet – we completed four public land partnership projects that added 6-miles of new trails and two trail bridges to Wyoming’s trail inventory. Starting in spring, we put the finishing touches on the Upper Brewer’s Trail in Lander’s Sinks Canyon, adding ramps to the 22’ bridge we built in 2019. In summer we completed another 3-miles of challenging new trail on Togwotee Pass, part of a multi-year Continental Divide National Scenic Trail partnership with the Shoshone NF. And between Laramie and Cheyenne on the Medicine Bow NF Pole Mountain Trails, we finished rebuilding the Aspen Trail and Haunted Forest Trail, 2-miles of beautiful new reroutes and one trail bridge to replace the unsustainable old trails. Then with a bit of luck before winter hit, we completed phase one of the Flowin’ Johnny family-friendly beginner trail at Johnny Behind the Rocks near Lander. That is the start of a new multi-year trail building partnership with the Lander BLM Office and Lander Cycling Club. All in all, it was a very productive year for trail building.

Community Trail Planning – Even with the constraints of the pandemic making such events difficult to hold, Wyoming Pathways and partners in the Thermopolis area were able to safely complete the rigorous process of field research and gathering sufficient public input to develop a comprehensive Thermopolis Community Trail Plan. The new Plan will help Thermopolis augment their outdoor recreation opportunities in the coming years. With the prospect of improved quality of life for residents and an improved economy through tourism, the “Hot City” will be an even hotter place to live and play.

Education – We were looking forward to holding another Wyoming Bike Walk Trails Summit and additional in-person seminars in 2020. The pandemic made doing that impossible, so Wyoming Pathways and partners Platte River Trails and Toole Design, with support from the Federal Highways Administration, pivoted to a distance learning model and were able to put together the Wyoming Active Transportation Webinars. The Series consisted of four hour-long, “educational lunch” webinars covering important topics in Active Transportation. The webinars were well attended by a broad range of folks, from city engineers to cycling advocates. All four Webinars are posted on our Website and may be viewed – excellent way to start your year if you missed this fall.

Webinar 1 – Complete Streets and How Wyoming Communities Can Build Them
View the webinar presentation and download the slide deck.

Webinar 2 – Encouraging Active Transportation for a Healthier Wyoming
View the webinar presentation and download the slide deck.

Webinar 3 – Improving Livability and Boosting the Economy with Walkable Wyoming
Downtowns

View the webinar presentation and download the slide deck.

Webinar 4 – Developing Bicycle Route Networks for Active Wyoming Communities
View the webinar presentation and download the slide deck.

Legislature – In 2020’s strange legislative session, Wyoming Pathways was paying attention for bills either helpful or harmful to biking and walking issues. We seek to make sure that legislators understand the value that improved policies and funding for active transportation can bring to Wyoming. In 2020, the Legislature considered two funding bills that were of particular interest, a proposed $0.03 fuel tax increase and a bill that would create a Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Unfortunately, and largely due to the brewing pandemic, both bills failed to be introduced.


Looking Forward to 2021:

Wyoming Pathways plans to build on the positives that we can take away from 2020 and carry a hopeful outlook into 2021. We plan to continue our public land trail building partnerships around the state, including Laramie, Lander, Dubois and Thermopolis, and we’re open to explore new projects we might help with, please let us know if you have a trail project that could use help or advice.

Working with our partners and friends throughout the state, here are a few of the things we have on our plate for 2021:

2021 Wyoming Legislative Session

Due the Pandemic and the state’s fiscal crisis, the 2021 Session will be challenging. Of what we know so far, the Revenue Committee is again planning to introduce a fuel tax bill, and the Transportation Committee is considering a Road User Cost fee bill. How these will fair in the current budget crisis is unknown. Wyoming Pathways will be watching these and will provide updates in our email and social media. Let us know your thoughts – we welcome your input on legislative issues and opportunities in Wyoming.

Trail Building 2021 = Connecting Communities and Building Partnerships

Pole Mountain Trail Project 2021 – Building on the past four years of award-winning work on the trail system at Pole Mountain Trail Project, the 2021 edition of the Project will be focused on developing the connecting trail between the Pilot Hill Project (http://pilothill.org/) and the Pole Mountain trail system.  This trail will be a critical element in completing the soft surface connection between Laramie and Pole Mountain and will create a regional trail complex rivaling any in the world.  Wyoming Pathways, in partnership with the Laramie Ranger District, has once again applied for a $50,000 Recreational Trails Project (RTP) Grant that will allow us to contract with a professional trail builder and the Wyoming Conservation Corps to create a fun and sustainable trail.  This time one that will open up unprecedented outdoor recreation opportunities for both residents and visitors alike, in southwest Wyoming.  You can keep up with the latest on the Pole Mountain Trail Project on the project page on our website: https://www.wyopath.org/our-work/pathways-projects/pole-mountain-trail-project/

Togwotee Pass CDT National Scenic Trail – Wyoming Pathways and the Shoshone National Forest plan to continue a multi-year partnership to reroute 10 miles of Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, between Bear Cub Pass and Togwotee Pass, a huge undertaking that will move the trail from old logging roads with no view, onto a proper singletrack trail with spectacular views of the high alpine landscape along the continental divide. Starting this July the $80,000 project will finish the last 3000’ of challenging new trail over Sublette Pass, which looks into the beautiful Brooks Lake Basin, plus trail crews will carry out additional maintenance work along the entire new trail section, which is open to people on mountain bikes, hiking, and on horses. When finished this summer, it will be one of Wyoming’s best high adventure trails ever built, and a great addition for people in the Dubois area and Jackson Hole.

Lander Community Trails 2021 – As happy Lander kids will confirm, the new Flowin’ Johnny MTB Trail is awesome fun, and the 2021 goal is to complete the 2-mile family-friendly beginner loop back to the JBR Trailhead. Partnering with Lander Cycling, Wyoming Pathways secured a multi-year grant partnership with the Bureau of Land Management for more trail expansion at Johnny Behind the Rocks, and future trail improvements for the Bus Loops, near Lander. There is also the possibility of trail expansion in Sinks Canyon State Park and hopes of improved connectivity from town to these great trail systems. You can learn more about these projects on our website: https://www.wyopath.org/our-work/pathways-projects/lander-blm-trail-projects/

Thermopolis Round Top Trail – With the Community Trail Plan completed, we’re moving forward to implement the top recommendation – to build a new MTB trail to the top of Round Top Mountain, a prominent natural feature in Thermopolis and a land gift of the Freudenthal family to the community. Trail construction grants are still pending, Wyoming Pathways applied for a $25k foundation grant, and Thermopolis will try and leverage that 50/50 with a Wyoming LWCF grant. Fingers crossed we can build it next summer – a safe accessible trail to Round Top would offer huge views of Thermopolis and the Bighorn River valley, and the goal is to be able to ride right from town via the new high-quality T-Hill Trail that opened in 2019. The Trail Plan also developed a local road and gravel bike route system that can be promoted right away, and there are some great rides on quiet roads in and around Thermopolis.

The Greater Yellowstone Trail (GYT)

The GYT, a 180-mile regional trail gem and a cycling tourism destination that connects the Wyoming, Idaho and Montana communities it passes through, saw several sections move forward in 2020, including a new section from West Yellowstone to the Idaho Boarder at Reas Pass, about 10 miles along the historic old Oregon Short Line that once brought tourists to Yellowstone. Plus remarkable progress is also underway on Wyoming and Idaho sections – the new approved Teton BUILD Grant includes $5 million new funding for the Teton Pass Trail Wyoming section from State Line to Coal Creek, and at long last in 2021 a previously funded Teton Pass Trail FLAP project will finally be under construction, building over two miles of pathway and two underpasses between Moose Creek in Idaho and Trail Creek Campground in Wyoming. Then a new WY FLAP grant was just submitted, which if approved will add a pathway underpass at Coal Creek on the Caribou-Targhee NF along WY-22, bringing the 17-mile pathway connection within reach. Wyoming Pathways will continue its commitment to moving this project forward and keeping you appraised of the progress. A new website and map of the corridor is also planned in 2021. You can keep up with the latest on the GYT project on our website:
https://www.wyopath.org/our-work/pathways-projects/greater-yellowstone-trail/

Teton Mobility Corridor Improvements Project

The Teton Mobility Corridor Improvements BUILD Grant project is located in the Greater Yellowstone Region of Idaho and Wyoming, spanning over 30 miles from Driggs, ID to Jackson, WY through the Teton mountain range. Wyoming Pathways has been deeply involved in moving this project forward, helping on the project team that developed the grant, and for 2021 focusing on the pathway and trailhead improvements that are part of the project. As one of the long-term projects that Wyoming Pathways is involved in, we will continue to support the project in 2021 and will keep you updated on the latest on our website: https://www.wyopath.org/our-work/pathways-projects/teton-mobility-cooridor-improvements/.

Wind River Access Moccasin Lake Road

The Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribes Joint Tribal Council Department of Transportation recently approached Wyoming Pathways for assistance with their Moccasin Lake Road project. This project, which would improve road access to outdoor recreation opportunities in the Wind River Range, is a great example of how organizations with shared interests can work together to benefit their constituents and the general public (and how you never know where opportunity will arise). Wyoming Pathways helped the Joint Tribal Council DOT to prepare a federal planning grant, which if approved will develop a concept plan, resolve access agreements, and prepare cost estimates for construction; it’ll be decided in early 2021.

New Projects TBD

Part of Wyoming Pathways’ mission is to help communities become better, healthier and safer places to live through improving and promoting biking and walking. We are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to do that, and we can use your help to reach out and keep us informed and tell us how we can help. If you have questions about biking and walking and trails, pathways and safe streets in your community, please be sure to contact us. You can do so by email ([email protected]), by using the contact form on our website or contacting us on Facebook. We will always get back to you and do our best to help.