SHERIDAN — EMIT Technologies announced Wednesday it would donate a mini excavator, trailer and tools to Sheridan Community Land Trust to aid in the creation of new recreation trails in Sheridan County.

Officials from both entities described the donation as “trailblazing” and a “game changer.”

“When it comes to our community, EMIT will continue to work towards making this an even better place,” said Casey D. Osborn, CEO of EMIT. “The work SCLT is doing to provide recreation trails and connect people with the places they love is vital to keeping our community strong. Moving forward, local trained volunteers can help make a significant impact to trail development in Sheridan County.”

EMIT announced the donation during Wednesday’s Hidden Hootenanny, a celebration organized by SCLT for the new Hidden Hoot Trail on the west edge of Sheridan the nonprofit built and maintains.

SCLT Executive Director Brad Bauer said one of the biggest challenges to building new trails quickly is the equipment needed to do so.

The donation of necessary equipment will allow SCLT to take portions of its budget used in the past to hire trail contractors to instead hire an operator who will be able to build and help maintain trails in a safe and sustainable manner.

Chris Vrba, SCLT director of marketing and development, said the full-time position will be hired soon.

The donation from EMIT of equipment is valued at approximately $38,000 but SCLT staff said the value far exceeds that.

“In reality, the value of EMIT’s donation is far greater than the dollar amount of the mini excavator, trailer and tools because the donation also represents opportunity,” Vrba said. “EMIT’s donation is an opportunity for SCLT to bring the cost of building trail dramatically down, and that difference, while it won’t be part of the actual dollar value of EMIT’s donation, will sure be noticed…

“Ultimately, thanks to EMIT’s generosity, SCLT will be able to get more bang for our donors’ bucks when building trails and create even more opportunities for people to get outside and enjoy our beautiful Bighorns,” Vrba continued.

The local nonprofit has plans for additional trails already in the works, including the build out of the Red Grade Trail system if it’s approved by the U.S. Forest Service and the Kicking Horse Trail, which will connect Hidden Hoot Trail to the Soldier Ridge Trail system. In addition, a loop is planned in the North Gateway.

This past spring, two-thirds of respondents to a Sheridan Parks and Recreation survey said walking and bike trails were their top recreation priority. That’s 20% greater than the second-highest priority of neighborhood and community parks and about 20% greater than the national average. Open space conservation areas and trails finished third among respondents in that survey.

Approximately 30 people attended the Wednesday celebration of Hidden Hoot Trail, a small segment of the community that has used the community’s trail systems and who look forward to more pathways and trails to explore.