The State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) on Oct. 1, authorized the allocation of $500,000 for Sheridan County, funds that will be used by Sheridan Community Land Trust to expand the Red Grade Trail System in the Bighorn National Forest.
According to a press release from the offices of the SCLT, after the meeting, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon praised the collaborative approach Sheridan Community Land Trust and Sheridan County have taken to create new outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.
“This grant recognizes the collaborative effort that has occurred in Sheridan County,” Gov. Gordon said. “Partnerships like this one enhance Wyoming’s outdoor recreation economy and provide real benefits to the people of the state. I look forward to visiting the completed trail system.”
SLIB’s decision affirms the Wyoming Business Council’s recommendation last month to fund a Community Enhancement Grant. In making its decision, the WBC cited Red Grade Trails as an investment in quality of life infrastructure that helps make communities more livable for current residents and more attractive for potential residents and businesses.
“The Red Grade Trails System is an economic attractor,” Mark Law, a Wyoming Business Council board member who resides in Sheridan, said, who noted access to outdoor recreation drives the decision many young workers make on where to live.
“The return on investment in terms of enhancing our community for a young workforce is a strength of this project,” Law said, “We have a good, strong outdoor base with summer and winter sports. We have these Bighorn Mountains; we need to leverage them.”
That sentiment is shared by Shawn Parker, Executive Director of Sheridan County Travel & Tourism, who called Red Grade Trails “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,” he said. “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.”
The $500,000 Community Enhancement Grant will be combined with nearly $100,000 from the US Forest Service, a National Forest Foundation grant of $18,000 and more than $130,000 SCLT raised locally to build 15 new trail miles and develop three parking areas in the Bighorn National Forest.
“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,” SCLT Executive Director Brad Bauer said.
Work has already begun in the Poverty Flats area.
“A lot of people use these trails, a lot of people love these trails and a lot of people appreciate these trails. The public/private piece is so wonderful. It shows that we all can work together,” Sheridan County Administrative Director Renee’ Obermueller said.
“This was truly a team effort and the best is yet to come. We can’t wait to see everyone out enjoying our beautiful Bighorns backyard. Now, that will happen sooner than we ever imagined,” Bauer said.
For more information or to view and print trail maps, please visit https://sheridanclt.org/.