Wyoming Pathways Seeks Funds to ‘Connect Main Street to the Mountains’

Nonprofit helps to build trails, pathways and safer streets in the Cowboy State

Pictured above are members of TPT Trails, the company hired to build the T-Hill Trail, at work in Thermopolis. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming Pathways)

By David Dudley

Special to the Wyoming Truth

For Michael Kusiek, executive director of Wyoming Pathways, the clock is ticking—and his vision is clear.

“We want to connect main street to the mountains,” he said.

While that may sound abstract, Kusiek and his team are working to do just that. The Pole Mountain Connector in Laramie is an example of how the vision looks in reality.

“When that’s complete,” Kusiek said, “you’ll be able to walk or ride all the way from Laramie to Happy Jack and Vedauwoo without touching any pavement. It’s gonna be trail all the way.”

Wyoming Pathways is a nonprofit dedicated to building trails and making communities across the Cowboy State more bikeable and walkable. To fund projects like the Pole Mountain Connector, the nonprofit is holding a 24-hour online fundraiser on July 12.

Trail projects can range from $10,000 to $15,000, and planning meetings cost around $5,000. If Wyoming Pathways reaches its $15,000 goal, the organization will be able to fund two trail projects and up to two planning meetings.

Grace Templeton, community engagement manager at Wyoming Pathways, said the Hughes Charitable Foundation will match donations received during the fundraiser dollar for dollar up to $15,000.

“So each donation will go twice as far toward making tangible impacts on people’s lives in various Wyoming communities,” Templeton said.

Singletrack Trails team members build a multi-use trail at Johnny Behind the Rocks near Lander. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming Pathways)

Founded in 2012, Wyoming Pathways helps communities develop and secure favorable policies and investments in public trails, pathways and complete streets in Wyoming. To date, the organization has participated in over 40 projects statewide.

In one example, Wyoming Pathways collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to develop the multi-use Upper Brewer’s Trail in Sinks Canyon, which aimed to increase outdoor recreation opportunities in the Lander area.

In another, Wyoming Pathways partnered with the Bureau of Land Management, the Hot City Outdoor Alliance and the town of Thermopolis on various trail development projects in and around Thermopolis.

And in 2015, Wyoming Pathways helped lead planning efforts with local and regional partners to design the Greater Yellowstone Trail Concept Plan, which includes maps of the proposed route, descriptions of existing trails and pathways, proposed priority projects and implementation.

But Kusiek said it’s important to note Wyoming Pathways doesn’t actually do the physical work of building trails and pathways. It’s what he calls a “connector organization,” because it provides technical support, facilitates connections to engineering firms and helps conduct research.

Kusiek got involved with Wyoming Pathways in 2019, when he volunteered to manage a project to install a bridge on the Upper Brewers Trail in Lander. Then, two years ago, he was hired as the executive director.

“I love my job,” said Kusiek, a former Lander city councilman. “It’s the best of all worlds. It combines my love for the outdoors with a cause that’s apolitical.”

“Our work helps make communities safer, while diversifying local economies,” he added. “These projects are really an investment in communities.”

Kusiek said Wyoming Pathways has helped to make streets more bike-friendly by advocating for “sharrows”—the arrows that show which part of the road should be used by cyclists of all ages.

“I’ve had conversations with mothers who want more than anything for their kids to be able to ride their bikes safely to and from school,” Kusiek said. “Again, these are things that everybody can get behind.”

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