LARAMIE -- The Pole Mountain Trail Project outside Laramie just won a national award for its outstanding use of Recreational Trails Program funds in the Public-Private Partnerships category.  The Tom Petri Annual Achievement Award was presented to project leader Wyoming Pathways and public land partner the Laramie Ranger District at an event this week in Washington DC.The Coalition for Recreational Trails Award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of the 2018 Pole Mountain Trail Project. This included restoring major sections of the popular Headquarters National Recreation Trail and the Middle Aspen Trail. The public-private partnership project generated a total $115,000 investment in the USFS public trail system, leveraging $50,000 in Recreational Trail Program grant funds with matching cash, volunteer hours, and in-kind contributions.Wyoming Pathways staff and board members contributed to project planning, trail layout, and trail crew oversight, along with the project fundraising and grant management. Laramie District Ranger Frank Romero led the USFS team, and Wyoming Pathways Director Tim Young was the project leader. The project also included large volunteer contributions by Laramie residents assisting with the trail restoration. Professional trail builder Adam Buck provided trail training for WCC crews and local volunteers as a bonus part of the project, improving local trail building skills and capacity.

In total, the Pole Mountain Trail project completed nearly 10,000 linear feet of rerouted new trail sections on the Headquarters National Recreation Trail and the Middle Aspen Trail. These trails are now restored to sustainable standards and open for public use, with positive public feedback on the trail quality and user enjoyment. The project relocated damaged trails to more sustainable locations, helping reduce soil erosion and damage to natural resources.

The project was fully completed in 2018, with significant cooperation between Wyoming Pathways, the US Forest Service, trail crews, and local volunteers. The local COG volunteer group also contributed toward achieving the objectives of the project.

The Pole Mountain Trails Project is part of the Wyoming Forest Gateway Communities USFS Priority Trails Initiative. This summer we’re planning our third year of major trail improvements on Pole Mountain, again collaborating with our Laramie partners and the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest Laramie Ranger District.

Pole Mountain Background

Located between Laramie and Cheyenne, the 55,000-acre Pole Mountain Unit on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest is a treasured resource for outdoor recreation and trails. Pole Mountain provides the closest public lands to these two large Wyoming communities and increasingly is a destination for visitors from the Colorado front range and travelers along Interstate 80.

Pole Mountain trails evolved over time and significant portions of the existing trails are damaged and unsustainable. A partnership effort is called for to plan and implement the improvements needed. The Pole Mountain Trail Project was created to address these needs.

At the invitation of local trail groups, Wyoming Pathways partnered with the University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute in 2016 to host a public Trail Charrette in Laramie that developed a framework for cooperation on the major trail improvements necessary. The initial planning effort engaged approximately 100 community members, Wyoming State agencies, the Governor’s Office, and staff representatives of the Wyoming Congressional Delegation.

Building on the success of the Trail Charrette, the Laramie Ranger District has entered into a series of Challenge Cost Share Partnerships with Wyoming Pathways to assist the Forest Service with major trail maintenance and construction projects. The first was 2017, when Wyoming Pathways led a successful RTP-funded trail maintenance project, contracting with the Wyoming Conservation Corps for trail crews.

Wyoming Pathways then conducted a professional trail system assessment of Pole Mountain and produced a Trail Sustainability Plan, developed with respected trail planner Scott Linnenburger. That plan helped to identify and prioritize the trail restoration needed on Pole Mountain.

Due in part to these efforts, the Pole Mountain Trails were included in the USDA Priority Trails Initiative as part of the Wyoming Forest Gateway Communities Project, which was selected as one of 15 National Priority Trail focus areas. The selection of priority areas follows the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sen. Enzi in the Senate and by former Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis in the House. U.S. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., was also a co-sponsor of the bill.

2019 Pole Mountain Trail Project

Building on the success to date, Wyoming Pathways, and the Laramie Ranger District are partnering again on the next 2019 phase of trail work, to reconstruct almost two miles of the popular Aspen Trail. The estimated $100,000 project will start in August. In addition, the Laramie Ranger District plans to start on a comprehensive non-motorized trail plan for the entire Pole Mountain trail system, including major community trail connections with the new Pilot Hill open space that connects Laramie and Pole Mountain.

The Pole Mountain Trail Project has greatly improved the trail system and public lands recreation options at Pole Mountain.  Thousands of feet of the trail have been built or rehabilitated to be more sustainable and more fun.  Modern trail design standards and techniques have been employed to make sure that the trails were built sustainably.  Feedback from the land manager and community of trail users has been almost universally positive and most of all, the Project has brought the community together to ensure that the Pole Mountain trails will continue to be a gem of southeast Wyoming for years to come.