Crucial walking path meeting Thursday

Local citizens interested in the formation of a walking/bike path system for the Lovell community are urged to attend what organizer Christy Fleming is calling a critical meeting tonight (Thursday) at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Visitor Center.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

Meetings in October, November and December were intended to assess interest and come up with ideas for where the path might go, Fleming said. Thursday’s meeting is organizational in nature, she said.

“We do have a rough overall plan,” Fleming said, noting that path advocates have keyed in on a path around Constitution Park and another around the North Big Horn Hospital and New Horizons Care Center facility and a path connecting the two sites.

Later phases would include a path connecting the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center to the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center and on to the Lovell community, and/or a path out to the Foster Gulch Golf Course that would loop back to the high school and middle school.11.26walkingpath

“The first three we held to see if there’s interest and where people want to see the trail system going,” Fleming said. “This meeting is where the rubber meets the road.”

Fleming said a number of people have attended the meetings, but few have attended all three, and she expressed disappointment in the turnout at the December meeting except for the local governmental leaders who attended.

“We’ve had 30 people interested who have shown up (for meetings),” Fleming said. “This meeting is to decide leadership of the group including committees and committee leadership along with who will be financially responsible whether forming a 501c3 corporation or finding a partner to carry funds.

“These are things people have to commit to and commit to for a long time. Are people interested enough to commit, or does it come down to the same four people? This is the tipping point. It seems harsh, but at some point we have to be realistic as to whether people will step up. We’ve had a couple of people step up, but we need more than those two people.”

Fleming first raised the possibility of reviving the dormant walking path project last fall as the Park Service began planning a pathway that would connect to the adjacent wild mustang center, but she has said from the beginning of the process that it cannot be “a Christy Fleming project.”

She said she can help but as a National Park Service employee she cannot be the person leading the charge, especially when it comes to handling funds. Park Service employees can facilitate, write grants, help find funds and provide a meeting facility for the process but cannot perform fundraising and be the leader of the project, Fleming said.

“There are certain things we cannot do. It becomes a conflict of interest,” she said. “I can’t lead this project. I can’t be the president of the walking path group. If there’s a fundraising group other people will have to do those kinds of things. The Park Service could only hold funds from federal grant programs.”

The Sept. 21 meeting is vital to the process, Fleming said.

“Everyone who has attended any of the three meetings needs to show up, as well as anybody else interested in working on the project,” she said. “I don’t want to get so far into it and it not go anywhere because there’s not enough interest. And I don’t want to string along those who are emotionally involved with it.”

By David Peck