Community organizers are progressing on an effort to raise money to buy a mountainside east of Laramie known as Pilot Hill. The hope is to turn it into a state park that connects the city of Laramie to trails in the Laramie Range, and will also protect the city’s aquifer from future development.
The property’s land owner recently agreed to extend the deadline to March 2019, giving organizers six extra months to come up with the money. Most of the property will be paid for by swapping it for state lands that local ranchers will volunteer to buy, because that land is already locked inside their property. But the State Land and Investment Board needs more time to make sure the public isn’t currently relying on those landlocked lands for recreation uses. And Pilot Hill Finance Committee Member Sarah Brown Mathews said the community also needs more time to fundraise.
“We also know that in order to create access points that have parking spaces, have restroom facilities, have handicap accessible tails and to create the trail system in this property, we’ll need to raise about $1.5 million just for the initial investment,” said Mathews.
She said the landowner extended the deadline because it’s clear there’s ample community support for the idea, including support from larger companies, including the environmental engineering company Trihydro.
“They, in particular, came forward to us and said that we’re going to be creative about our contribution. We’d like to do a direct donation from our company. We’d like to do some matching dollars to encourage our employees to also support and we’d like to also be involved in contributing some of the engineering costs that we know will be coming down the road for you.”
Mathews said other businesses are following Trihydro’s example. She said such businesses recognize how a state park abutting the city will benefit the economy and make recruiting employees easier.
“Once this deal is complete,” said Mathews, “it will be the largest private grassroots effort at conserving open space in Wyoming that has ever taken place.”
Mathews said once the land swap is approved, the state will host a 60-day public comment period, probably sometime this winter.