Working together for a sustainable system of trails.
Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails (SPHS&T) has a rich history in outdoor recreation. Known mostly for its boating, fishing and camping opportunities, the agency historically has never offered hiking and biking trails as part of its managed resources.
In 2006, SPHS&T began a pilot project building trails at Curt Gowdy State Park and developed 35 miles of multi-use trails. The completed trail system is arguably responsible for the observed jump in visitation from 50,000 per year to over 150,000 annually in 2012. Many phases of the Curt Gowdy State Park trail project were funded through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
In 2010, SPHS&T successfully applied for an RTP grant for Glendo State Park, and trail-building commenced that summer. Glendo SP is located 100 miles north of Cheyenne, WY and 80 miles from Casper, WY. These are the two most populated towns in Wyoming with each having approximately 60,000 residents respectively. Glendo receives half of its visitation from Colorado and the other half from Wyoming, typically during the summer season. The visitation at Glendo is about 300,000 annually. Glendo State Park is about 20,000 acres, half of which is on land and the other is water. The 10,000 land acres were mostly unused.
2015 marked five years of trail construction at Glendo SP and the completion of 50 miles of trail. The system has four trailheads, two brand new interpretive kiosks, a bicycle work station, and trails of various difficulty levels. The multi-use trails take people on quiet walks to wetlands or thrilling downhill mountain bike rides. These trails also connect people with birding opportunities where a view of an Osprey, Bald Eagle, or a Great Blue Heron is not out of the ordinary.
The trails were designed to be sustainable using techniques to increase the longevity of the trails. While there will always be maintenance considerations, the use of limiting grades and proper outslopes, installation of grade reversals, and building on rock when possible, all help to reduce maintenance. Also, creating trails with bends and curves keeps mountain bikes slow and reduces conflicts with hikers/walkers.
The trails at Glendo are progressive; those close to the trailheads are flat and less challenging. Trails farther from the trailhead become more difficult and more technical. All of our trailheads are accessible to those with disabilities and conform to the Architectural Barriers Act for outdoor recreation.
These trails would not be possible without the RTP program. RTP has given SPHS&T funding opportunities that would not exist otherwise. While SPHS&T has also contributed funding, we have received $50,000 in private donations to help with the cause. These donations provided the match required by RTP and helped fund kiosks, a pontoon bridge, and more trail construction.
The Glendo Trails project has created a Trails Coordinator position and facilitated the development of many partnerships. Glendo State Park is a Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) site and the trails have helped strengthen the partnership with BOR. We also have an agreement with the adjacent land owner, the Office of State Lands and Investments, which allowed for the development of 20 miles of trails under a special use lease. Other partners include Fat Fish Racing, a mountain bike club from Casper, WY, and Overland Mountain Bike Club from Fort Collins, CO. Overland has an agreement to provide trail patrol and education at both Curt Gowdy and Glendo State Parks
Some other notable partners are the Wyoming Conservation Corps (WWC) and Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy. The latter is a Wyoming National Guard Program designed for at-risk youth. These programs give youth and young adults exposure to the outdoors and careers in natural resources, and provide opportunities to learn teambuilding and ecology. The WCC has built about 10 percent of the trails at Glendo SP. We also worked closely with the lessee on state lands who has the rights to graze his cattle. We designed a cattle guard that was approved and installed in six locations.
The trails at Glendo State Park have created a great new opportunity for trail enthusiasts. It is now the largest specific-built and well maintained system in Wyoming. With the help of Facebook and the SPHS&T website to raise awareness, people now come to Glendo solely to use the trails, camp overnight, and head to their next destination. Our trail registers show that people are coming from many different states, with large groups of people frequently coming from South Dakota during the season.
The trails at Glendo SP have given an economic boost to local bike and sports shops which have seen increased business due to the increased visitation. The local marina at Glendo has expressed a desire to carry trail-related gear such as backpacks, water bottles, bike tubes and tires. In 2013, in an effort to compete with out of state professional trail contractors, we saw the creation of a new Wyoming trail construction business which successfully bid on Glendo trails and received two contracts.
In an effort to increase trail usage at Glendo State Park, we created an annual event in 2013 called the Glendo Trails Festival (GTF). Each year in June, we host over 400 people from Wyoming and neighboring states at this festival celebrating trails. Free to the public, this event offers free camping, free entrance, and free food. Fat Fish Racing hosts a bicycle race during the GTF with all proceeds going back to the trail program for maintenance. In 2015, a legislator from Colorado attended the GTF to gather information on how the trail system evolved. His intent was to take this knowledge back to his district to begin building trails in the Colorado Spring area.
Currently the trails at Glendo are maintained by dedicated seasonal trails staff, paid for with state park budgets. During the GTF, we also host a trails volunteer day to allow trails users the chance to give back and to also show them what it takes to maintain trails.
The trails at Glendo State Park have been a wonderful addition to the park. Most significantly, many of the new trail users are visiting the park during the shoulder season (Nov-Apr) and not competing with the heavy summer visitation. We are also seeing the regular visitors using the trails in the cool mornings and nights and saving the water sports for the heat of the day. This project is a huge success on many fronts.