‘Friends of Bridger-Teton’ invites local stewardship

Joy Ufford photo A group of people who love places in the Pinedale Ranger District talk with Sarah Walker, back right, about the new nonprofit ‘Friends of the Bridger- Teton.’

Plenty of people

who play and get away to the Bridger-Teton

National Forest have special places that mean

a lot to them – some they will share and others

they won’t.

Sarah Walker, director of the brand new

nonprofit Friends of the Bridger-Teton, introduced

herself to a several dozen of them at two

public meetings last week.

Last Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Marbleton

senior center, she met with forest lovers who

live in the Big Piney Ranger District, which

includes the Wyoming Range as well as the

Gros Ventres and Hoback Basin. Big Piney

and Marbleton attendees talked with Walker

and District Ranger Don Kranendonk about

their perspectives of the Bridger-Teton National

Forest.

Walker explained that Friends of the

Bridger-Teton is still in the formative stages

and she is exploring the “stewardship aspect”

needed from the public in light of “really severe

Forest Service budget cuts.” Walker, who lives

in Dubois, does not work for the Forest Service

but has experience with nonprofits.

“There are five ranger districts across five

counties and we want to find out the ‘needs’ if

we had funding and boots on the ground,” she

said. “With community support we want to find

common themes for the entire forest that overlap

and would have volunteer support.”

She hopes to identify “on-the-ground improvement

projects” that could be cost- and

work-shared with other groups, individuals and

businesses.

“There are tons of grant opportunities out

there a nonprofit can apply for and partner with

existing groups for leverage,” Walker said.

“This is brainstorming for the groundwork.”

She added, while national forest budgets are

cut, more people are visiting them than ever.

People at Marbleton mainly addressed the

Wyoming Range, listing “trails that haven’t

seen a saw or ax in years.” Erosion along unmaintained

trails makes them even worse and

markers and signs have fallen over. One suggestion

was to connect the Wyoming Range

Trail – which hikers and bikers say is not

marked well at all – with one in the Kemmerer

district.

Mountain bikers commented that slopes of

existing hiking trails are too steep to navigate

easily and inclines could be re-graded. Lack of

road maintenance affects access to trailheads

and motorized users showed interest in offroad-

vehicle projects.

“We share half a recreation specialist with

Kemmerer,” Kranendonk said.

Walker asked if the group thought many

people would volunteer. Big Piney Town

Council member Aimee Davison said, “The

community here has lost so many people. I

think this is a great opportunity but there are

only this many people.”

She suggested setting up yurts that visitors

could hike, ski, ride or snowmobile to for an

outing. The Sherman Guard Station will open

soon for overnight stays like the Hoback Guard

Station does, Kranendonk said.

With volunteer help, Snyder Basin Guard

Station could also be opened up, he added.

Kranendonk brought up Monument Ridge

and Dell Creek near Bondurant, where he

would like to see a “more effective” use of existing

– and closed – roads and trails. No one in

the group was from the Hoback Basin. Walker

said she might have a meeting in Bondurant to

gauge interest there.

The next evening, Walker spoke with a

larger group at the Pinedale Library with spe-

‘Friends of Bridger-Teton’ invites local stewardship

By Joy Ufford, [email protected]

cific concerns about trails, trailheads, bridges

and roads in the BTNF’s portion of the Wind

River Range. They brought up recreation by

ATVers, climbers, backcountry skiers, hikers,

riders and campers – from very experienced to

totally inexperienced.

Great Outdoor Shop co-owner Laura Hattan

said many people come in who plan to hike and

have no idea about the mountains – like where

they might find a bathroom.

“They won’t,” she said. “A lot of it is that

people just don’t know.”

Animal and human waste is a “hygienic

problem” and the group suggested collection

points for “litter bags.”

Pole Creek Trail that starts at Elkhart Park

is very popular but is eroded and blocked by

deadfall, some said. Defining a trail through

rocks at the Cirque of the Towers was another

comment. Better river crossings and fords

came up; Pinedale District Ranger Rob Hoelscher

said engineers are reviewing some now.

Kathy Raper of the Altitude Off-Road club

Joy Ufford photo

A group of people who love places in

the Pinedale Ranger District talk with

Sarah Walker, back right, about the

new nonprofit ‘Friends of the Bridger-

Teton.’

said they all carry chainsaws in their ATVs to

clear motorized access wherever they can.

Green River Lakes Road (dust control),

Union Pass Road (erosion) and other roads got

complaints. Hoelscher explained the district basically

has one crew for a two-week window.

“If you can pinpoint specific areas where

they are failing, or pull-offs, we are willing to

take donations and volunteer help,” he said.

He said he was pleased to hear what people

really thought. One forest user complained

about a dumpster that was near Union Pass

Road. Hoelscher said residents, not campers,

filled it up so he had it removed.

The Big Sandy trailhead also brought ideas

of moving a campground to expand the parking

lot.

More events are planned by “Friends of

Bridger-Teton” for communities around the

Bridger-Teton National Forest. For more information,

contact Sarah Walker at 302-699-2379

or [email protected]

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