A cyclist’s chain won’t work without every link in place, and likewise neither will an ambitious plan to create a recreational trail across Wyoming as part of an ambitious coast-to-coast project.
Angela Emery of Casper hopes her group’s efforts will complete one of those vital first links.
“It would be a catalyst for others to get involved across Wyoming. We would be the first big link toward getting there,” Emery told Cowboy State Daily.
She’s the outgoing executive director of Platte River Trails, a group that has been involved with nonmotorized pathways through Casper for 20 years.
Now they’re hoping to spearhead efforts to join Casper’s recreational trail with a route heading to a state park east of the city near Evansville – eventually tying it to a 500-plus-mile route across Wyoming.
That in turn will be part of the envisioned Great American Rail Trail, spanning 3,700 miles from Washington state to Washington, D.C.
Patience The Name Of The Game
Casper already has a cycling and walking path running roughly 4 miles between Ash and Curtis streets, Emery said. What Platte River Trails hopes to do is tie that in with another stretch running about 3.5 miles between Curtis Street and Edness K. Wilkins State Park near Evansville.
The trail through Casper is paved, but existing sections running to the park, and additions to tie them together, are or would be “soft surface,” she said.
It also would include a cycling and pedestrian bridge across the old Glenrock Highway near the park’s entrance, Emery said.
What’s lacking now is money.
Toward that end, Platte River Trails applied for a $745,000 Wyoming Outdoor Recreation grant. If approved, it could come from a $50 million outdoor recreation trust recently approved by the Wyoming Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Gordon.
“If the grant comes in, we’d be ready to start with the work immediately,” Emery said. “So, we’re just waiting to hear back about our grant application. You’ve got to be so patient in this game.”
Much Larger Vision
Platte River Trail’s efforts are indicative of what should eventually bring together the entire Great American Rail Trail, Kevin Belle of Washington, D.C., the project’s coordinator, recently told Cowboy State Daily.
It’s hoped most of the project can be genuine rail trails, or recreational paths built along old rail beds, he said.
The entire Casper area route is or would be along abandoned rail beds, Emery said.
In Wyoming, linking the route between Casper and Douglas will be paramount to the project’s success here, Belle said.
Douglas Onboard Too
The city of Douglas is “really enthusiastic” about being included, City Administrator J.D. Cox told Cowboy State Daily.
About 5 miles of trails within Douglas could be tied in. Outside of town between Douglas and Casper, the city would be willing to “work with other partners” on the project, he said. That could include seeking private property easements, if needed.
The city also has applied for a grant from through the federal Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, Cox said.
Rather than money, the grant would come in the form of in-kind technical assistance, he said. Experts from the National Park Service could help develop plans for the new trail system.
Could Be Good For Residents, Tourists
One of the selling points of the cross-country rail trail is that it could boost tourism and fuel small businesses all along the route, Belle said.
Campgrounds or hotels and motels along the route could offer travelers places to rest, and shops and restaurants along the way could benefit as well.
Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, told Cowboy State Daily that Wyoming’s section of the trail could be great for business.
It would also be popular with Wyomingites, she said.
“Visitors and residents enjoy doing the same things,” she said. “The very reasons we love living here and working here are the reasons other people like to come and visit.”
The rail trail project is just one of many such ventures that could be fueled by the outdoor recreation trust fund, she said.
“You’re going to see a lot of these sorts of projects coming up,” Shober said.