By David Peck
The community walking path proposal that stalled a few years ago could be revived if the Lovell community gets behind a project being proposed by a Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area leader to tie in with a Park Service project already being developed.
Bighorn Canyon Chief of Interpretation Christy Fleming said this week that she would like to see if the walking path project could be resurrected, noting that the Park Service is moving ahead with a project to connect the visitor center with the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center with a walking path.
Fleming said Tuesday that the Park Service/Wild Mustang Center pathway project is an extension of landscaping project the Youth Conservation Corps and park maintenance staff have been working on under the leadership of Jennifer Schneider. The path would come off the east sidewalk at the visitor center and cross the pasture to the mustang center.
The Town of Lovell a few years ago extended sidewalk on East Main on the north side of the street around the corner to a point at the Mike McArthur residence directly across U.S. 14A from the visitor center, and Fleming’s idea is to tie into that sidewalk and take the project even further if the community is willing.
At the very least, Fleming would like to see the sidewalk in front of the visitor center extended along new flower beds being developed and on out to the Town of Lovell sidewalk. Within the footprint of the visitor center and surrounding area, a gravel path would run along the Hunt Canal and around the back side of the pond, tying into the east sidewalk. Currently, she said, five laps around the pond on the inner path equals one mile, but on the perimeter trail two laps would constitute a mile.
The work within the visitor center boundary would be paid for through a YCC funding proposal written by Schneider, and the Park Service is partnering with the mustang center for the path between the two facilities, Fleming said.
As long as planning is under way for the Park Service and Mustang Center pathways, Fleming said now might be a good time to revisit the idea of a community walking path in Lovell and perhaps points beyond. The town a few years ago worked with then county commissioner Keith Grant and others on the idea of building a walking path in town and extending it west along the Globe Canal and on out to the Foster Gulch Golf Course. The project eventually ran out of steam.
“While we’re doing this we felt we had the opportunity to propose to revive the town walking trail in whatever way the public feels is best to connect the mustang center and visitor center to the town and perhaps out to Foster Gulch,” Fleming said. “I think it would be cool if it could run past the highway department (on McKinley Ave.) and along the hillside all the way (along the enclosed Globe Canal).”
During a presentation to the chamber of commerce Monday by Fleming, Lovell Supt. of Schools Rick Woodford worried about the place where the open canal enters the enclosed canal west of Lovell Middle School and the suction created at that point, and Fleming said Tuesday that, ideally, the walking path would climb on top of the bench before that location and avoid the open canal, though she added, “I’m not going to establish where the trail goes. That’s something for the community to decide.”
If the project gets going and gains momentum, Fleming said there is the opportunity for funding through the Healthy Parks, Healthy Communities program as well as the National Park Foundation’s Active Trails Program. Help could come from the Roads, Trails and Conservation Association (RTCA) and workers could come from the Public Land Corps. But she stressed that the project must be a joint effort.
“This has to be a community partnership,” she said. “It can’t be Christy saying we need this trail and me pushing it. I can’t do it alone. And a partnership is a requirement of RTCA funding.
“They (RTCA) will be facilitators. They’ll come and get community members involved, they’ll facilitate how to find funding and who will maintain the trail and build parts of the trail.”
In order to gauge interest in a walking path system, Fleming will hold a community open house on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. at the Park Service Visitor Center. People may call Fleming for more information at 548-5406, and she urges community members, businesses and organizations who may want to be involved to attend the meeting.