Ron was an avid snowmobiler and ATV rider who worked for the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources. Ron was a leader who knew that the State Trails Program exists only because of Wyoming’s snowmobile and ORV riders who fund it.
Snowmobiling and trails in Wyoming lost a great friend and leader on November 10th when State Trails Program Manager, Ron McKinney, passed away at age 62 after suffering a heart attack on November 1, 2019.
Ron was an avid snowmobiler and ATV rider who went to work for the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources – Trails Program in Lander as a seasonal snowmobile trail groomer operator in 2005. Ron continued as a seasonal trail crew member working on both winter and summer trails until he was hired as a full-time employee in 2007. He was promoted to Regional Trails Supervisor in 2008 and then promoted again, to Trails Program Manager, in 2012.
Ron took over leadership of the State Trails Program at a difficult time when the snowmobile program was facing a funding shortfall. At the time, WSSA and the Department had been trying, unsuccessfully, for a year or two to get a snowmobile fee increase approved by the legislature. Ron’s down to earth demeanor while testifying before legislative committees, along with his obvious extreme passion and commitment to snowmobiling and the Trails Program, helped get that much-needed fee increase approved. As a result, the Snowmobile Program as well as the ORV Program have adequate, stable funding today, are well equipped, have a very talented and dedicated staff, and are serving their trail constituents well because of Ron McKinney’s leadership and passion.
Ron was a leader who knew that the State Trails Program exists only because of Wyoming’s snowmobile and ORV riders who fund it. In return, he was loyal to doing the best job possible to take care of the user funds he was entrusted to manage. He was steadfast in his efforts to protect his program’s funding source, ensuring that snowmobile and ORV riders’ funds get to the ground – to provide high quality access and riding opportunities.
Ron was a great collaborator who worked closely with federal land managers who host almost 100% of Wyoming’s great snowmobile and ORV trails. He recognized that federal agencies lacked the staff and funding to do a good job of operating motorized trails on their own and, in response, helped create internal grant programs using state snowmobile and ORV dollars to help provide trail development, operation and maintenance on federal lands. In the absence of this funding partnership, we very likely would see poorly maintained trails and even more closed riding areas due to the lack of federal agency funding. Ron also continued to be a strong advocate for getting federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant dollars back to motorized trail users who fund that program through the federal fuel tax they pay on gas for their snowmobiles and ORVs. These grant programs continue to be vital to providing high quality trail and riding opportunities and have blossomed during Ron’s leadership.
Ron also worked closely with the Wyoming State Trails Advisory Council to administer the RTP Grant Program and to promote and advance trail opportunities for both motorized and nonmotorized trail users. He earned the respect of this diverse group of trail interests and his leadership included educating Council members about on-the-ground issues and the varying needs of trail users by hosting Council trail rides – so that Council members and other Department staff could experience snowmobiling and ORV riding first-hand.
It seems that all great leaders who are taken too early leave unfinished business. For Ron, unfinished business includes acquisition of the Collins Building complex that has been home to the Trails Program in Lander on a leased basis since 1997. The building’s owner is wanting to sell, so Ron has been working diligently for the past couple of years to get this shop complex into Trails Program ownership. This complex works extremely well for the Trails Program and his goal has been to ensure his staff and all their equipment, trail signing, and trail building materials has a secure home base for years to come. There is enough funding in the snowmobile and ORV accounts to fund this purchase, the State Building Commission has been evaluating this potential acquisition for the past several months, and things are looking favorable. It is a good project and a good long-term investment for the Trails Program. Now we, collectively, need to pull together to help get this piece of unfinished business across the finish line. And in the end, dedicate it as the McKinney Trails Complex.
Ron absolutely loved the Trails Program and all of its many supporters and partners and will certainly be missed by many. He is survived by his wife Cindy, daughters Sarah and Lyndsey, three grandchildren, their beloved Australian Shepherds, and a host of other family and friends. Condolences can be sent to Cindy McKinney at PO Box 1129, Lander, WY 82520.
-Article courtesy of the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources – Trails Program