The fourth season of work is getting underway as part of an ongoing project to rebuild trails on the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest.
With plans to begin as soon as the snow from Tuesday’s storm cleared away, trail-building company Red Construction is completing a reroute of Aspen Trail that was started last summer before turning to a full rebuild of Haunted Forest.
“It’s about two miles of new trail that will be built to replace the existing trails that were really pretty damaged and unsustainable,” said Tim Young, executive director of Wyoming Pathways.
Wyoming Pathways, which is leading the work on Pole Mountain, is a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes non-motorized travel in Wyoming communities.
“The goal is to prioritize the most important trails that need work done and gradually get the whole system up to a real high quality,” he said.
Since starting the project in 2017, trail builders have also rerouted or rebuilt portions of Headquarters Trails and Brown’s Landing while also doing basic maintenance on other trails in the U.S. Forest Service system.
Young estimated that about 30 miles of trails in the Pole Mountain area are officially included in the Forest Service system, while at least that many more are used by the community but aren’t part of the system.
The Laramie Ranger District is in the planning stages of an overhaul of the non-motorized system on Pole Mountain, which could see more trails pulled into the system or new trails constructed.
Both Aspen Trail and Haunted Forest are heavily used by hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Both travel up steep hillsides, necessitating sustainable reroutes that allow water to drain without causing erosion.
Funding for this year’s project included a grant from the Recreational Trails Program, which is administered by Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails. The 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.
Cycle Wyoming also made a donation, while volunteers from Tiger Tree and the Pedal House have helped clear downed trees along the trail corridor in preparation for construction. Common Outdoor Ground is tentatively planning a volunteer workday on Sept. 26.
Young traced the beginning of the project to a public meeting that took place in August of 2016 to gather public perceptions about the trail system, which is used year-round by hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and skiers. The system sees visitors from Laramie, Cheyenne and even the Colorado Front Range.
“We realized several years ago that there was interest on the community side and interest on the forest side, but there wasn’t progress being made,” he said. “We were in a position to help.”
The work on the Pole Mountain trails is part of an exciting time for trail-users in southeast Wyoming, as the Pilot Hill Project land swap was recently completed, with that parcel set to open to the public later this fall. The Laramie Ranger District is planning a connector trail from Pilot Hill to Pole Mountain.
Trail-builders are set to work through the end of September and possibly into early October, while Young said the project will likely continue in coming years.
“We anticipate this being an ongoing project in the foreseeable future,” he said.