Pink Grade Trails proceed to broaden | Outdoor

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SHERIDAN — In the past 15 months, the Red Grade Trail system has more than doubled in size, according to the Sheridan Community Land Trust.

In the fall of 2020, the Sheridan Community Land Trust received two grants totaling nearly $600,000. Funding was provided to build 15 new trail miles and develop three parking lots in the Bighorn National Forest. Two of those lots, one at the Poverty Flats Trailhead and another at the Bear Gulch East Trailhead, were completed earlier this summer. A third lot is planned. Two years ago, the Wyoming Business Council awarded the Red Grade project a $500,000 community improvement grant and the US Forest Service contributed $99,914.20. According to SCLT’s Chris Vrba, that funding is almost gone, but the results are tangible.

“What’s next for the Red Grade Trails is simply raising money to complete the system. In the last 15 months we have more than doubled the number of hiking trails and increased the parking lots,” said Vrba. “People are really up there and using this trail system and these parking lots a lot.”

Even within Sheridan County, where the SCLT’s reach extends to historic preservation and partnerships with many local authorities, the Red Grade area is a special place, he said.

“It’s beautiful up there, and if people have followed the progression of the trails from the earliest planning stages, which predate much of the SCLT’s staff, to the present day…we really do have a place that works,” he said. “The opportunity to build in a trail system and get people up the mountain was great. These trail systems are incredible.”

The SCLT will host the In Bloom 2022 fundraiser presented by Sheridan Media on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College, Rooms W235-236. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald will discuss how Native American tribes used Yellowstone for 11,000 years and will share stories, experiences and insights from his time leading state-of-the-art archaeological digs in Yellowstone National Park.

The evening will include a live and silent auction of items and experiences, as well as a raffle for a Weatherby Element® Semi-Auto 20 Gauge Shotgun. The SCLT will also host a Paddle Raise to help preserve local lands and ranches, preserve and tell stories about local history, and connect the community with nature. The event includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Vrba said Sheridan County acts as a fiscal agent for Wyoming Business Council grant applications. The SCLT also uses WyoGives campaigns to raise funds for trail development and has applied for a grant to the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Program. Visits to the trail system number about 60,000, and Vrba said the trails are used by local educational groups, private organizations and non-profit organizations.

“Another aspect that makes the trails so cool is the opportunity for learning, socializing and group activities. And for our volunteers, it’s really an affair of the heart,” said Vrba. “The Bighorns have steep climbs that you can use to earn your way anywhere. When you hit our trails you still have to earn your way, but it might be a little easier. It’s about accessibility.”

The In Bloom fundraiser is a free event and Vrba said the SCLT is asking people to come and celebrate what the organization has accomplished.

“We also hope that you will be inspired during your visit,” said Vrba.