Big Spring Scenic Backway is one area on the Bridger-Teton National Forest that could be improved, according to attendees at Monday’s Friends of the Bridger-Teton meeting.
Community members gathered at Diamondville Town Hall on Monday to learn about a new non-profit, Friends of the Bridger-Teton. The group was formed to promote projects that enhance visitor access, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat and watershed health on the forest.
Attendees proposed potential projects and voiced concerns to Sarah Walker, the group’s director.
Walker also hosted community forums in Pinedale and Big Piney.
“We really want to focus on projects that address the most needs for the most communities,” Walker said.
The director said the group would coordinate with the other organizations that already focus on education and historic preservation on the forest, which spans 3.4 million acres across several western Wyoming counties.
“One of the big themes I’m hearing from communities across the board is trails, roads and infrastructure,” Walker said. “So, if you had a magic wand, what would you fix on the forest?”
Most of the group agreed that forest trail maintenance was a high priority.
Attendees expressed a desire to reopen and maintain ATV trails on the forest, and said there were plans to start a community ATV club.
“If we have more people and more eyes on these trails, we can maybe prevent a lot of damage and garbage pile-up on these roads and trails,” one attendee said. “We should be helping maintain these trails anyway. There’s nothing wrong with cleaning up as you go.”
Roland Robbins, a retired BLM employee, said that there is a wider variety of recreation on the forest now. That can be a great opportunity, but also opens up the forest to damage from visitors.
“The Forest Service just doesn’t have the money for maintenance that they used to,” Robbins said.
Walker agreed that education about responsible recreation, especially among the younger generation, should be an important part of the mission of the Friends of the Bridger-Teton.
“If we’re having a problem with people wrecking these muddy roads and trails in the spring, we could work on education and signage reminding people to be careful even if the roads are open,” Walker said.
Another attendee suggested visiting local schools to educate young people about responsible recreation on the forest.
Walker said that a benefit of this new non-profit is organizing several communities to advocate at the regional level.
“When you look at the Bridger-Teton, it doesn’t get as much funding as some other forests,” Walker said. “This group would be able to engage volunteers and show that people in this area care about what happens to the forest.”
Another potential project for the group would be to do minor repairs on the guard stations.
“This would be an opportunity to recruit some volunteers that would like to go on overnight outings,” Walker said.
Lincoln County engineer Amy Butler brought up improvements that could be made to the Big Spring Scenic Backway and site, including improving the road and trail access, repairing the bridge, and offering better parking and a picnic area.
Another project Walker said she has heard interest in is increasing the signage on the Wyoming Range trail and better connecting it to Kemmerer.
Walker said the Friends group could help streamline the volunteering process with the Forest Service. Representatives from the Forest Service attended the meeting and said they would appreciate volunteers.
The yearly membership fee for Friends of the Bridger-Teton is $25.
“The more members and funding we can get, the more we show that people in Kemmerer care about the forest,” Walker said. “That will help when applying for grants for projects.”
“We do want to get out this summer and do some small projects to start out, so we’ll work on pinpointing some locations on the forest,” Walker continued.
The program director said it was encouraging to see this much interest here, and that there would likely be more input and planning meetings in the next few months.
For more information about the Friends of the Bridger-Teton, visit btfriends.org or the group’s Facebook page.