A project to complete a cross-country bike and pedestrian path system called the Great American Rail-Trail is underway. That trail system will stretch from Maryland in the east to Washington state in the west.
A significant portion of that trail system will wind through Wyoming with the Casper Rail-Trail as one of 12 “gateway tails” across the country.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is the organization heading the 4,000 mile coast-to-coast project. Trail Planner Kevin Belanger said the conservancy is excited to be working with some groups in Wyoming to realize the vision.
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“Angela Emery and the team at Platte River Trails Trust are doing excellent work on building trails and getting people excited to go on trails in the Casper area,” Belanger said. “Also, Tim Young and the team at Wyoming Pathways are critical champions for trails across the state.”
“RTC is excited to continue to work with them, as well as Domenic Bravo and others at Wyoming State Parks and others across the state to make the Great American Rail-Trail a reality in Wyoming.”
The conservancy has named one location in each of the 12 states along the trail system as a “gateway trail.” Casper’s Rail-Trail is the gateway in Wyoming.
“They are some of the iconic trails that will make the Great American Rail-Trail possible,” Belanger said of the gateway trails. “The entire proposed Great American Rail-Trail route will consist of over 125 existing trails with more to come all the time as new trails are developed to complete the route.”
“We chose the Casper Rail-Trail because of the great work done by Platte River Trails Trust to create and maintain this exceptional trail through one of Wyoming’s biggest cities.”
Belanger added that the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy engaged with a Wyoming task force when they were initially planning the trail.
“The Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee of the Wyoming State Legislature created a Bicycle and Pedestrian System Task Force in 2016,” Belanger said. “Governor Mead signed the bill into law and appointed 13 people from across the state to serve on the Task Force.”
“The Task Force released their report in 2017 considering the many benefits [of] completing the construction and maintenance of trail projects, including economic, quality of life, health and safety. RTC staff engaged the Task Force early in our initial planning for the Great American Rail-Trail, and the report includes several references to the Great American Rail-Trail.”
Belanger pointed out the references to the Great American Rail-Trail in that report. That included a recommendation that the Wyoming Legislature find ways to help fund trail construction in Wyoming, particularly the section in Casper. It encouraged work be done to connect Casper trails to nearby communities.
The report Belanger was referring to is available here.
Belanger said that the full proposed route will be unveiled sometime this spring.
“We are excited about the prospects of Wyoming’s inclusion in the Great American Rail-Trail!” he said. “We will be ready to discuss the specifics of the Wyoming section when we release the full proposed route in the spring.”
An Oil City article discussing the Great American Rail-Trail, including Platte River Trails Trust Executive Director Angela Emery’s perspective that the project needs public support, is available here.