In what Sheridan Community Land Trust officials are calling a “game changer” for outdoor recreation opportunities in the Bighorn Mountains, the SCLT recently received two grant awards totaling almost $600,000 – all of which will be used to build 15 new trail miles and develop three parking areas in the Bighorn National Forest.
“This truly was a game-changing week for Red Grade Trails,” Sheridan Community Land Trust Executive Director Brad Bauer said. Bauer noted the Wyoming Business Council awarded the project a $500,000 Community Enhancement grant at its Sept. 10, meeting, while the US Forest Service utilized remaining fiscal year funds to contribute $99,914 that is already being put to use prepping new trails in the Poverty Flats area.
“In both cases, overwhelming support from our Sheridan County community through trail visits, volunteers and donations is what secured these grants,” Bauer said. “Thanks to our community and the funds they helped us secure, the majority of what was originally envisioned as a decade-long project will be built in 2021.”
The new trails in the Bighorn National Forest will largely be shared use and open to all forms of non-motorized recreationists including hikers, mountain bikers, runners, walkers, equestrians, photographers, yoga practitioners, birders, wildlife watchers, flower fanciers, fungi finders, plant peepers and more. Some trails will be single use too, with some routes dedicated specifically to pedestrian, bike or horse use.
Building quality of life infrastructure
Shawn Parker, Executive Director of Sheridan County Travel & Tourism, told the Wyoming Business Council that SCLT’s Red Grade Trails are “a tremendous asset to Sheridan County.”
“From a local perspective, they add to our quality of life by offering access to outdoor recreation right on our doorstep,” Parker said, adding that trail systems like Red Grade Trails support the local economy through tourism and bring new businesses and the employees that work for them to the county.
“Thousands of requests come in each year from people looking for hiking trails, and it’s great to be able to send people out on a short drive to one of SCLT’s trailheads,” Parker said, pointing out that when he’s asked to help develop business leads, SCLT trails are a first stop.
“I often begin local tours with an exploration of access to the outdoors and the Bighorn Mountains – often using our local trails as a gateway,” he said.