By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Just north of Cody on a narrow, paved road that passes by the Cody Shooting Complex on the way to the Trail Creek Ranch, there’s an unmarked plot of land off to one side next to a two-track dirt path.
The path runs past Newton Lakes to a trail system on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Local hikers and bicyclists are frequent users of the trails, which are not clearly marked. For those who have discovered them, there’s a delightful reward at the top of a steep hill. A natural stone arch sits atop a massive cliff, overlooking the valley below.
But that experience — up until now — has been only for those who know how to get there.
“It’s one of those places where if you know, you know, but if you don’t know, you’d never know,” said Janie Curtis with the nonprofit organization That Other Project, which recently was awarded a grant to improve access to one of the more spectacular, yet undiscovered, hiking trails around Cody.
Cody was one of 25 communities, each with populations less than 50,000, to receive a Hometown Grant from T-Mobile this year. Up to $50,000 was awarded to each town, from states such as South Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas, Washington and others. The money is to be used for community development projects that include technology, education, environment and health care.
“They had over 500 applicants,” said Curtis. “We applied for $50,000 to develop the Outlaw Trailhead, and we were given the full 50-grand, which not everyone is given. We were totally surprised.”
The money will fund the development of an official trailhead for what is known as the Outlaw Trail, a maze of hiking and mountain biking trails in a rugged area just a few miles north of Cody.
The grant was sought by That Other Project because of how often the three organizers of the nonprofit use the trail system.
Curtis, the organization’s treasurer, is the founder of the Bill Cody Races, a series of organized foot and bike races put on throughout the year. Her sister-in-law, Tiffany Manion, is the vice president and heavily involved in local youth cycling. President Chris Guyer owns the local bike shop, Joyvagen.
“(Guyer) mountain bikes the Outlaw Trails a lot, and he’ll take his mountain bike club kids out there,” said Curtis. “So all three of us kind of saw this trail system and up and coming.”
Phase One is preparing the parking area, putting up rock borders to keep vehicles contained. Curtis said they’ve worked closely with the BLM during the grant process, and Phase Two involves using the agency’s resources to further develop the trailhead.
“(The BLM) actually had some items that they were able to donate,” she said, like picnic tables and a three-paneled kiosk that the agency had in surplus. “So they were able to reduce our costs a little bit in that way and provide a lot of things that we didn’t know were going to be there, so that has been really awesome.”
Curtis said the BLM will erect a sign designating the trailhead, and a printed map of the trail system also will eventually go up. The timeline to get started is as soon as possible.
“T-Mobile, they like to see their money spent as soon as possible,” she said. “Definitely within a year.”
But the determining factor for local organizers is the weather.
“Right now, the determining factor for breaking ground, is, ‘OK, which company can get us the best quote and deliver on a timeline before the frost?’” Curtis said. “If we can get it done before Dec. 1, the dirt work should take two to three days, is what I’ve been told.”
The Future Of the Outlaw Trail
Curtis said there’s a push by local bicycle associations to expand the Outlaw Trail system, which coincides with a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the area by agents of the BLM and the Bureau of Reclamation.
“Regardless of the expansion of trail, just even with the current trail systems as they are, the traffic is getting busier,” said Curtis.
But she clarified that the intent of the project is not to encourage more people to use the trails; rather, members of the nonprofit simply want to preserve the existing natural beauty.
“What we’re trying to do is just contain the people that are already getting out there, preserving the landscape and also just making it a more appealing place for people to come and hang out,” she said. “With the closeness and accessibility to town, it just needs to be one of those Cody classic hikes.”