ROCK SPRINGS — The City of Rock Springs will look at a trail project that connects southwest Wyoming communities through an off-road trail system.
After hearing from the Southwest Wyoming Off-road Trails (SWOT) group at a recent meeting, the Rock Springs City Council will continue looking into using off-road trails as a way to bring some revenue to the community.
SWOT founder Mark Tesoro said SWOT is an economic development project for the communities of southwest Wyoming by connecting them through a series of trails, roads, and county roads.
“Since this is an economic development project for the communities, accessibility to the communities is paramount,” Tesoro said.
According to Tesoro, Evanston has already approved ordinances allowing all of the city’s roads and streets to be enrolled in the state of Wyoming’s trail system. This allows for someone on an ATV or a side-by-side access to all of their roads as long as they purchase a $15 Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) sticker. The Uinta County Commission followed suit and added around 15 county roads to the trail system allowing residents access from Uinta County to the Bridger Valley area.
So far, other communities joining in on their project are Lyman, Kemmerer, Mountain View, LaBarge, Big Piney, and Marbleton. Dubois was the first city in the state to start this kind of program, so the others have followed its ordinance.
“The idea is to bring people into the communities, and we may not have some of the natural wonders that they have in other states, but we really have our own interesting, exciting, and historical stuff to see here in southwest Wyoming,” Tesoro said.
Just some of the sites travelers can see in southwest Wyoming include Fort Bridger, Fossil Butte National Monument, the Oregon and Mormon trails, Pony Express stations, Cumberland coal mines, Piedmont Charcoal Kilns, wild horses, the Boar’s Tusk, the Red Desert and the Killpecker Sand Dunes.
“There really is a lot to see in southwest Wyoming and this would be a way to get people into the communities, have them stay maybe for a couple of days and then ride from there to another community where they could do the same thing,” Tesoro said.
“There are trail systems like this in many other parts of the county, it’s just new for Wyoming,” Tesoro said.
What is great about this program is it plans to use existing oil field, wind mill, county, two-track and ranching roads that have been on the books for decades. He said they use the existing public right of ways to make the connections between communities. In order to connect Evanston to outside communities, the group worked with the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to put a trail inside of its right-of-way fence for public access.
According to Tesoro, a bill will be going in front of the Wyoming Legislature to change some state statute language to address some of the right-of-way issues for this project.
The Wyoming State Trails is looking at making this something to extend across the entire state, however that will take time, which is why southwest Wyoming is moving forward on its own. Tesoro said he has already visited with the Sweetwater County Commission and they were on board, but now he’s seeking permission from Rock Springs.
For Rock Springs’ part, Tesoro was asking the city council to change its ordinances to allow for ATVs and side-by sides access to roads within the community. It would be up to Rock Springs officials to determine if it wanted to only open up certain roads or all of its roads for access. With Rock Springs being a much larger community than the others that have participated in the program so far, he knows it will take them more time to figure out what they want to do.
Pete Stinchcomb, WYDOT District Construction Engineer for District 3, said both the WYDOT director and Governor Mark Gordon are supportive of this effort. He said they are working to find which roads will work the best because they don’t want to open up all of the roads.
“I will note if we do make this interstate crossing, it will be the only one in the entire country,” Stinchcomb said.
Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, said he is in support of this project because those travelers will need a place to get gas and eat, which is why it’s important for the bigger communities to support it. It’s a way to expand the county’s economy. He said he would be willing to work with the Council on finding ways to resolve issues that come up.
“I think there’s a lot of great benefits to this,” Sen. Kolb said. “I will support this legislatively…”
As for maps and proposed trails, Tesoro said they are going to be relying heavily on locals to select the best routes because they are the ones out there on the trails and know the area much better.
The Councilors asked Tesoro more questions about what other communities were doing and wanted to know if it would be confusing to those using the trail system if Rock Springs didn’t have all of its roads open for trail use.
Tesoro said this is where signage and education would be important to the success of this program. They can educate riders through apps, maps, or brochures. They would need to make it clear which routes were open to OVR sticker use and which ones were not.
The Council also wanted to know if riders needed insurance, a license and registration, because the ORV sticker is different, than the requirements for street-legal vehicles. Tesoro said on the sticker application they need to have insurance. As for the license plates, a lot of other states do not require them and so that will not be a requirement. However, the person driving the ATV or side by side must have a valid license plate.
After much more discussion, the Council decided it would like to learn more about this program, review ordinances other communities have drafted and are using, and decide if this is something Rock Springs will pursue.
To listen to the entire presentation, watch the video below. The presentation starts around 8 minutes.