By Charles Pekow
A trail network that traverses three states has received a 2017 grant from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC). Wyoming Pathways (WP) will use the money to leverage other resources to fill gaps in and make connections to the 180-mile Greater Yellowstone Trail, which will run between Jackson Hole, WY through eastern Idaho to West Yellowstone, MT.
WP won the grant competitively from RTC’s Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund, which, RTC explains, funds “small, regional projects that are vital to trail systems but often fall through the cracks of traditional funding streams.” (Disclosure: I am an RTC member.)
The goal is to close gaps in the trail (such as between Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Idaho) and link with other trails and communities so as to create a 260-mile bike loop, as well as make improvements to existing facilities and build bridges.
“At the most base level of practicality, we knew WP and we knew the great work they have done and we wanted to continue their efforts,” explains Eli Griffen, RTC’s manager of trail development resources and manager of the Doppelt Fund grant program. Griffen ackowledges that RTC hasn’t funded many projects in the area recently. Keep your eyes open, though. “We would like to be more active in that part of the country,” Griffen says.
WP will use the grant to continue planning and network with partners along the corridor, including local municipalities, public land agencies and county governments. “We’ll follow up with them and gather information on how individual projects are going,” explains WP Executive Director Tim Young. He also hopes to use the grant to leverage other funding, such as federal grants to construct the trail.
WP is charged with using the Doppelt money to hire the Bozeman, MT office of Alta Planning + Design this summer to help “branding,” or developing a “unique identity” for the trail and sort out priority sections to seek further funding for, Young says. Alta has done previous work on the project, such a making a map for the Missoula MT section.
While most of the trail is bikeable and hikable now (you’d probably want a mountain bike on some of it), “it will be some time before every section is finished and every sign is up but it’s a big project and that’s understandable,” Young explains. A current $2.2 million grant is financing finishing the trail between Victor, ID and the Wyoming border. The two-mile segment should be open in the next year or two, Young says.
“We knew that $20,000 is a drop in the bucket for this,” Griffen says, “but we hope it will spur other donors to give.”
“We love the possibility of integrating several trails into a larger network. This project will connect at least three rail-trails and provide another amenity for tourists in the area who are already coming to see Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, but also for the residents in the area,” Griffen says.
Under the terms of the grant, WP must spend the money this year.
In May, the Greater Yellowstone Trail Concept Plan won the Trail Planning & Design award in the greater than $500,000 category at the American Trails International Trails Symposium.
Read about the plan concept at goo.gl/YEvdx6.