SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Community Land Trust recently secured three grants for projects meant to improve waterway and trail systems in the county.
Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources provided more than $150,000 for the beginning phases of the Red Grade Trails System, a parking area and the Tongue River Water Trail Assessment.
“Of course, any time you receive funding like that it’s pretty exciting,” SCLT Executive Director Colin Betzler said. “But it goes from excitement to, ‘OK, time to get to work’ in about 10 minutes.”
The SPCR’s Recreational Trails Program, part of the federal highway bill, also known as MAP-21, provided a $50,000 grant for the Red Grade Trails System. The grant required a 20 percent private match.
Work in 2015 will involve the first 2 miles of non-motorized trails on public lands to the east of the road. SCLT plans to select a contractor by April, with groundbreaking slated for May and completion in the fall.
The Red Grade Trails System is scheduled to eventually feature 33 miles of trails ranging from easy to advanced and designed for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use. The non-motorized trail system will traverse state, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands accessed via Red Grade Road between the graveled parking lot at the start of the road and the Bear Gulch parking area approximately 2.5 miles further up the mountain.
The International Mountain Biking Association’s Trail Solutions division designed the system. The firm previously worked on Curt Gowdy State Park and other Wyoming projects. The trails aim to focus on safety while preserving scenery, privacy of surrounding landowners and keeping wildlife and watershed considerations in mind.
The inspiration behind the Red Grade Trails System emanated from the public.
“We have a recreation work group, and it’s made up of community members,” SCLT Communications and Development Associate Claire Hobbs said. “It really came out of that work group that people in Sheridan wanted more places where they could recreate that were easy to find and that was an actual trail.”
A $53,610 SPCR Maintenance, Construction and Planning Grant will go toward improving a trailhead and parking area utilized by both motorized and non-motorized users on Red Grade Road.
Construction will commence in 2016 to take advantage of grant-matching opportunities, Hobbs said.
SCLT also secured a $50,000 grant through the SPCR Recreational Trails Program for its Tongue River Water Trail project. This required a 20 percent local match.
The water trail initiative will cost an estimated $83,400 and include metal debris and riprap removal, boater-friendly fence matching program, existing access site kiosks, way-finding signage, on-trail signage, a project web portal, bi-annual hazard identification and mitigation and improvements to undeveloped sites.
“We have a couple specific in-stream hazard removal projects that we’re looking at starting here this spring,” Betzler said. “The other major effort that we want to tackle is to get the word out there … we want landowners to know that we have funds specifically dedicated to replace the typical fencing across the river with boater friendly fences.”
The long-term goal of the project is to increase knowledge and access on Big Goose Creek, Little Goose Creek and the Tongue River and eventually establish a federally designated water trail.
SCLT has created an overview of the Tongue River Water Trail with assistance from the National Park Service River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
To view this document or for more information, visit the SCLT website at sheridanclt.org.