CASPER, Wyo. — Natrona County offers plenty of trails. Some snake around Alcova Reservoir and others through the woods on Casper Mountain. But many users and would-by users say there is a problem: Most aren't marked and are tough to find.
A group of local skiers, mountain bikers, hikers and snowshoers wants to change that.
The group, which also includes representatives from the city of Casper, Natrona County and the Platte River Parkway Trust, hopes to create, among other things, a map of all existing trails in the area, signs that label each trail and an organized user group to eventually push for more trails. Members have already met twice and plan for more meetings.
"There's a tremendous recreational resource in our county right here that's potential hasn't been discovered," said one of the organizers, Natrona County High School outdoor teacher and Nordic ski coach Bob Matson. "Quality of life is directly related to opportunities like this, for a wide range of citizens."
One of the main goals would be to unify local trails.
"Right now we want to solve the problem of, 'Where do I go for a hike without needing to be a mountain goat', or ‘Where do I take my grandma for a hike?'" Matson said.
Lack of signs and organization can create situations like the conflict over the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain, where users have created many smaller trails that snake through private property. The county and several volunteers are working on a map for the Bridle Trail, and if approved, it will include signs directing people along a formal trail, said Keith Tyler, a local attorney and trails advocate.
Group members have looked to communities like Flagstaff, Ariz., which has more than 50 miles in its urban trails system and plans for another 80 miles.
Some things group members hope for include:
-- Determining the number of trails the Bureau of Land Management, county and city recognize and if or how well they are mapped. Then they will explore building a global positioning system inventory of the trails.
-- Creating a map for hotels, the Casper Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau and other venues to give to tourists. With this would be a searchable online database that could include the trails listed with difficulty level, accessibility and length.
-- Building more trails with better signs to prevent conflicts among user groups such as people who Nordic ski with dogs or snowshoe. Right now, all groups converge on the Casper Mountain Trails Center on Casper Mountain. With a bit more planning and organization, each group can have a place for its activity that's safe, Matson said.
-- Hosting a local trails conference. The conference would be a chance for many nonmotorized users such as hikers, runners, cyclists and skiers to talk about future trail prospects and what they'd like to see. It could first be local and later statewide.
"The more vocal trail users are, the better likely we are to get it going," Tyler said.
Even though they're still in the planning stages, group members are moving forward — looking for grants and organizing ideas. They hope to hold a public meeting in March to hear more opinions and hold a trails maintenance day in June.
"I think it's long overdue that people get together and work on this," said Nathan Cook, a skier and mountain biker. "User groups have been operating independently for too long."