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The puppy ran through water and dug in a pile of dirt at Casper’s new fenced dog park. Cheryl and Ernie Flores and their son, Bailey, 14, tossed sticks for Willow to fetch as the Labrador mix wandered around trees and sniffed in the grass.

The family frequents the Platte River Trails on foot and bicycle. On Sunday, they visited the latest development from the Platte River Trails Trust, Dylan’s Park, near the Tate Pumphouse.

“I think Casper has great pathways and parks, and they’ve done so much with the river trails,” Cheryl said. “And it’s fun, it’s close and it’s free.”

The Platte River Trails Trust continues to expand its trail network and its list of summertime events, the nonprofit’s executive director Angela Emery said.

“So we have a lot going on,” Emery added. “It’s the high season in Wyoming — June, July and August – to cram a lot of fun in 12 weeks.”

Growing trails

Joggers and bicyclists passed volunteers picking up trash Saturday just off the Platte River Trust’s newest trail alongside Casper Mountain Road.

Groups fanned out along the paths for the nonprofit’s annual spring cleanup to prep the trails for the Casper Marathon and a summer full of events. The trails wind along the river and open spaces, 10 parks and through downtown.

Danica Sveda joined a group of fellow Casper College employees for the cleanup along the new Mountain Road Trial running from the campus to Wyoming Boulevard.

But first she took a run along the path.

Sveda works for the Casper College Foundation Department, which runs the annual fall T-Bird Trek. The new trail is now part of the race that raises funds for the college and scholarships.

The trail has also proved beneficial to the college community, she said.

“The employees are getting out and getting sunshine and getting a little exercise on their lunch break and then the community gets an opportunity to kind of run by the campus,” Sveda said. “And it’s so good for the community to have these trail systems where it encourages people to get out and enjoy Casper more.”

The paved path was built last year, and the second phase this summer will stretch the trail nearly two miles past Wyoming Boulevard. Eventually it will reach Rotary Park on Casper Mountain, Emery said.

The road offers a much safer way for foot traffic to travel along Casper Mountain Road, she said. As soon as the path was graded last summer, people were cycling, walking, running and pushing strollers there.

The Platte River Trails Trusts is also planning two maintenance projects to finish in late summer or early fall. Crews will replace a trail section below the Overlook Shelter near Crossroads Park and lay asphalt from the end of the new concrete trail to the Pedestrian Bridge at the Soccer Complex by late summer or early fall, Emery said.

The new fenced dog park opened last week.

“Casper sees lots of tourism in the summer, people that are coming here as a destination or traveling through, and so many people travel with their dogs,” Emery said. “A fenced dog area right here off of I-25 next to the Pumphouse, next to our trail system, we feel like it’s going to have a big draw for locals and tourists.”

A new Platte River Trails map shows the latest updates along with information about best places for activities like picnicking, dog-walking, fishing or water sports, Emery said.

Longtime Platte River Trails Trust board member Keith Tyler said the trails won’t stop at Paradise Valley. The plan is to keep branching to serve several communities west of Robertson Road.

The trails through the Casper area offer exercise as well as safe transportation for foot and cycling traffic, he said.

“It’s a place where the community can thrive. You ride on the trail, you see people that you don’t see all the time,” Tyler said. “It’s real easy to get pigeonholed in your lifestyle where you just go home and you don’t see many people except for your work. I think it’s great that we have a trail system where you’re out and about and you see other people.”

Summer recreation and events

The trails system is not the only thing that is growing. The number of events tied to trails is also increasing.

The Respect our River Committee will stock life jacket loaner stations along the river starting June 1, Emery said. Two new stations will be installed this year.

“We’ve been really we feel very fortunate to be involved with that effort, because we want people to enjoy the river,” Emery said. “But we also want them to be safe.”

The third year of Food Truck Friday kicks off June 22 with additions including live music all day, kayak demos and Respect Our River providing safety information.

“It’s been wildly successful,” Emery said. “We didn’t know what the response was going to be and it’s really pretty amazing.”

One new event is the “Solabaration—Casper’s Summer Solar Festival” at the Bart Rea Learning Circle. The event, benefiting an alternative church community called The Table, will feature Apache Indian Dancers Yellow Bird Productions from Arizona. The event will also include live music, food trucks, vendors, along with activities for all ages including science, art and yoga, according to the event Facebook page. Local groups including Beyond Borders Yoga & Yoga & Adventure Retreats also host qigong, kids’ story time sessions and meditation also takes place there through the summer.

The Flores family walks and bicycles along trails near the Pumphouse not far from their home. They moved to town about 20 years ago and have seen the trails grow through the Casper area to offer many more neighborhoods access, Cheryl said as they walked their puppy Willow after playing the new dog park.

“It’s important, especially when we’re so addicted to technology and phones and stuff,” she said. “It’s good to get out and enjoy nice weather and each other.”

For more about the Platte River Trails and summer events, go to platterivertrails.com.

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Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner

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