The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners closed a land exchange on Friday that secures 4,343 acres of land for the Pilot Hill Project. The exchange has been in the works for more than two years and traded 11,668 acres of isolated state trust land for the area now in Pilot Hill.
The newly acquired property, along with property owned by the University of Wyoming and the Bureau of Land Management, will connect the eastern edge of the city of Laramie to the Medicine Bow National Forest. Half will be managed for non-motorized recreation and the other half will be protected as critical habitat for deer, antelope, and elk. The area will also protect an exposed part of the Casper Aquifer, which filters rain and snowmelt to provide clean drinking water for most of Albany County.
According to Pilot Hill spokeswoman Sarah Brown Matthews, the recreation area will be opening to the public soon.
"With that closing, the lease agreement between the state and the county is also activated, which is really exciting for us. There are some commitments that we've made within the lease agreement that we need to complete before we can open the property for public use," Brown Matthews said.
Some of those commitments include signage and fencing to keep people from wandering onto private property. Trails will be built in phases, and Brown Matthews said they may be able to start construction as soon as this fall.
"Our goal is to be able to welcome the community to be out on the property just on some limited trails this fall before the weather really closes in on us. And we also hope to be able to leverage the enthusiasm of the community to possibly start doing some trail construction work this fall, again, before the weather gets bad and the days are too short," Brown Matthews said.
For now, Pilot Hill Recreation Area won't have any built-up trails, but they are encouraging recreation on existing two-track roads, many of which will eventually become official trails anyway.
"We did have the engineering group out doing some initial flagging on the phase one trails that we plan to build within the next few years. We really will be inviting people to utilize the two-track roads that are on the property and ask them just to stay on those if they want to go all the way to the top of the property," Brown Matthews said.
A community-wide celebration to commemorate the opening of Pilot Hill is planned for next summer.
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