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The city of Gillette has approved a new pathways master plan and is looking to expand their system

City of Gillette

The Gillette City Council recently approved the completion of a master plan for the city’snetwork of pathways for pedestrians and cyclists that connect parts of the city. There are plans to construct additional miles of pathways in the future to connect even more of the city.

Currently, there are approximately 80 miles of existing pathways and an additional 71 miles that are proposed as part of the plan.

An online survey got feedback from city residents about what they were interested in. There were 175 responses from a range of age demographics.

“Connecting our northwest part of town was one of the big concerns for locations, other ones [were] connecting to some of the bigger, I want to call them parks, we have our sports complex park [Energy Capital Sports Complex], the Cam-Plex is out to the east, and then we have a couple of other larger parks in town,” said Joe Schoen, Gillette City Engineer. “So, the connectivity was one of the big things that people also told us, ‘Can you get us a pathway to make it safer to cross streets, four lane and five lane roads in order to make sure that would work?’”

Other concerns that have been expressed over the years have included a lack of resting areas, such as benches along pathways and lighting for walking or running when it’s dark. The condition of some of the existing pathways could also use some improvement, Schoen said.

“We're really diving into it over the next two or three months before budget to see where the locations of those might come, or which ones float to the top,” he said. “I want to make sure I kind of hit on some of the worst ones of our pathways, which ones of these parts of the existing system need upgraded. So, once we identify a location, once we identify what are some of the repairs or replacement, what the cost would be, then we start looking at projects. So, as of today, nothing's in the budget as of this past year, because we wanted to complete the pathway master plan.”

Funding for maintenance and construction is allocated from the city, Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), Transportation Alternatives Programs in addition to federal monies. As it currently stands, the city is only responsible for 10 to 25 percent of the funding with the rest coming in from the state and federal government. This is a reason the city decided to complete the pathways master plan and find the best way to move forward with it.

A previous pathways master plan was completed in 2009 and hadn’t been updated since. The recent one came from other previous pathways documents, some of which date from the years when Gillette was booming in population.

“They realized that that's what was bringing people in, people wanted it more [pathways],” Schoen said. “And so that's kind of the big things that hit them from the 90s to 2009. A big boom, more people were using the pathways, more people wanted to pathway so then we just kept continuing that growth and making sure we tried to build it as much as we could [to accommodate their wants].”

The city began a new study to update the master plan in 2020. Funding for this initiative was provided by WYDOT as well as from local optional one percent sales tax.

The construction of new pathways costs around $3,000 per mile, which includes expenses that are calculated for such things such as snow removal during the winter and mowing during the summer months. Some pathways are also given priority status, which places them higher on the city’s list for these services. Replacement and any new costs for construction are separate expenses, he added.

“When they look at the entire town, they're looking at our entire pathway system,” Schoen said of residents who made proposals for future pathway connections. “It wasn't so much that we built it, and nobody uses that, so that was the good news. The downside is there are places we haven't really got into, and those are the ones that we heard the most from.”

The plan also allows the city to prioritize projects and schedule them for completion at a later time as the budget and funding allows.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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