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Cloud Peak Outdoors Center proposing new use for visitor center

SHERIDAN — At least one of the parties interested in revitalizing the former Burgess Junction visitor center has made proposed plans for the facility public.

Sheridan resident Andrew Gast said his organization Cloud Peak Outdoors Center has been working with the U.S. Forest Service on a proposal that would reopen the facility as the company’s headquarters and base of operations.

“Our goal is to keep the investment made by the Forest Service worthwhile,” Gast said. “It would be our responsibility to maintain the property and upkeep moving forward.”

The USFS closed the visitor center in September 2012 due to a reduction in federal funding. In May of this year, the USFS announced its intent to allow an outside company to utilize the space and began accepting proposals for a Granger-Thye special use permit, which is the same permit used to operate campgrounds on the Bighorn National Forest.

While proposals are not due until next week, Gast has posted the gist of his proposal for the facility online.

While Gast currently works at the Sheridan Senior Center, he said his background is in running summer training camps and outdoor programs.

Gast is calling the project the “Twin Buttes Outpost,” and according to the Cloud Peak Outdoor Center website it would “serve as a pit stop for families and groups traveling west toward Yellowstone National Park, complete with public restrooms and outfitter shop.”

The website also states that daily introductory-level programs that include Leave No Trace basics, camping fundamentals, wilderness survival, mountain boarding and orientation to hiking will be offered.

The site also indicates that weekly programs that include making s’mores around a fire, kite flying clinics, movie nights and youth group programs could also be hosted at the revitalized center along with rentals of child carrier backpacks, bikes, skis and other gear.

Gast said the cost to get the facility opened, should Cloud Peak Outdoors Center get the permit, would be $45,000. The group has started an online fundraising campaign to help cover the costs.

Efforts to learn how many proposals have been submitted to the USFS so far were unsuccessful.

Once the proposal deadline passes, each proposal submitted will be evaluated for technical aspects of the type of business and the experience of the applicants, as well as the business plan and the financial viability of the plan.

The business plans will be reviewed by the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, which will report back to Bighorn National Forest staff.

The permit would be active for five years with the option to renew for another five years.

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