A proposal to expand the existing six miles of Red Grade trail system in the Bighorn National Forest in Sheridan County is open for public review.
Bighorn National Forest is considering authorizing the phased development of about one acre of U.S. Forest Service land. It includes building 15 miles of non-motorized trails and three trailheads with parking areas. The trails could be used for hiking, biking, and in some cases, horse riding.
The Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT), along with Sheridan County, proposed the plan. The conservation group would be responsible for funding, building and maintaining the trail system.
The draft decision says that building the trails would be phased and states, "Sheridan County with Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) will only construct each phase that is supported by the community and funding has been secured for proper construction and maintenance and the phases may take many years to complete."
Chris Vrba, the SCLT's marketing and development director, said the proposal is a response to the community's request for more hiking and biking areas.
"There's a strong desire in our area for folks to be able to access the outdoors. With the proposed Red Grade trails project, it's an opportunity not just to access the outdoors but to access the outdoors in a safe and sustainable manner," he said.
Amy Ormseth is the district ranger for Tongue Ranger District of Bighorn National Forest. She said she's heard about the community's desire for more access to the outdoors in this area, too.
"Part of where I'd heard this came from is also the ease of access from the communities and being able to access something that is a continuous system-not just driving up on top of the mountain and biking for the day, but something that connects the communities to the public land," she said.
Vrba said the proposal also includes decommissioning existing dead-end and user-created trails caused by hikers leaving established trails.
"By being able to build properly maintained and properly designed trails can head off some potential problems environmentally," Vrba said.
Ormseth said user-created trails can have an impact on soil and water and that a properly designed trail system can avoid sensitive areas.
The public can review the draft decision and final environmental assessment and raise objections during the 45-day review period that closes in mid-June.