A public land project in Laramie has been awarded the 2020 Project of the Year by the Wyoming Planning Association.
In 2018, community members started trying to figure out how to purchase a 7,100 acre ranch on the outskirts of town in hopes of protecting it from development.
The community raised over $1 million and worked with the state on a land swap. Pilot Hill Executive Director Sarah Brown Matthews said the key to the project's success was forming lots of creative alliances and keeping all the options on the table. She said they're now in the first phase of the plan, building 21 miles of multi-use trails connecting Laramie to the Medicine Bow National Forest.
"Phase two adds another about 12 miles of trails that add a lot of connecting corridors within the system and variety for the different user groups," Brown said. "And then, phase three expands on those and also adds a trail that will be within the wildlife habitat management areas."
Brown says she hopes other communities use their example to develop similar projects. She also hopes the award will help boost the project for the next two phases.
"You know, from a purely development perspective, we're also hoping that this adds some credibility to the project when we're certainly seeking additional funding from investors that might be interested in helping us get the project built out sooner rather than later."
The grand opening of the Pilot Hill park is scheduled for the summer. Matthews says that's when they'll open the new trails and celebrate with music, food and giveaways.