Casper’s network of trails near the North Platte River and around the city help residents and visitors alike make the most of the state’s fleeting summer months.
The Platte River Trails Trust has been in the community for 34 years, said the trust's Executive Director Angela Emery.
Incorporated in 1982, its original mission was to construct 10 miles of riverfront trail, which was eventually expanded to focus on creating a network of trails throughout the community. Now, it's continuing that mission and hopes to draw awareness to the trails system.
“Way back, in the late 1960s, the city of Casper … began to realize the river was a resource,” Emery said. Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, which required states to clean up all waterways. “Before, the river was used as a dumping ground,” she said. The city soon began to realize the river was a great resource, which prompted the building of trails inspired by the river walk in San Antonio, Texas, spurred cleanup and boosted conservation efforts.
The backbone of the trust’s trails project funding comes from WYDOT's Transportation Alternatives Program, Emery said. Alongside that, the nonprofit uses money from 1-cent sales tax allocation, reaches out to other public and private agencies and writes grants to further fund its projects.
The Platte River Trails Trust is hoping to buy about 30,000 square feet of land north of the power substation on Robertson Road to build an underpass. Emery hopes an agreement can be reached by Aug. 1 with Rocky Mountain Power to buy the property. If all goes as planned, the project will be completed by fall of this year or spring of 2017.
The west side of town has grown a lot over the past few years and there’s no sidewalk on Robertson Road, she said, noting children and families need a safe place to walk and ride bicycles in the area.
The trail will be built on the west side of Robertson Road, close to Oregon Trail Elementary School. The project will dovetail north of the school with a city of Casper project south of the school and will continue north past the substation to the underpass, Emery said. From there the trail will continue north on the east side of Robertson Road next to the river. The project is fully funded by the WYDOT TAP program.
A second project in the works is Phase I of a trail from Casper Mountain Road to Rotary Park. WLC, an engineering, surveying and planning firm, is in the process of completing the trail’s design, said Emery. The project is expected to be put to bid this winter and construction is expected to begin in spring of 2017.
The project will be an expansion of the bike lane along Durbin Street and will eventually create a connection between downtown and Casper Mountain. “View this trail as an extension of the city of Casper bike lane,” she said. “The bike lane ends a little south of the YMCA, will pick up at the entrance of (Casper College) and keep to the west side of campus.”
The hope is to keep the trail near the college’s parking lots so it can benefit students as well as walkers and cyclists. Once the trail moves farther south of the college, it will move closer to Casper Mountain Road. The project was originally intended to stretch across three phases, but Emery hopes the trust can receive further grant funding so it can be compressed into two phases, with Phase I ending at Wyoming Boulevard. Upon its completion, the trail will reach Rotary Park at the base of Casper Mountain.
The board of directors of the Platte River Trails Trust will host two more Food Truck Friday events in the parking lot of the Tate Pumphouse. Vendors will offer everything from barbecue to shaved ice at these family-friendly gatherings. Food trucks are expected to start showing up at noon so patrons can enjoy lunch by the river. “We just felt like Fridays are a good day for people to want to be outside for lunch,” Emery said.
From 5 to 8 p.m. on both Fridays, there will be live music and lawn games. Zachary Schommer will entertain on July 29, with Indie Soul performing Aug. 26. Parking is available at the Pumphouse or at Amoco Park, just east of the Pumphouse.
- What: Food Truck Friday
- When: noon to 8 p.m. July 29 and Aug. 26
- Where: Tate Pumphouse, 1775 W. First St.
- Cost: free
Another upcoming event the 2016 Riverfest, presented by the Platte River Trails and Foss Motors at Crossroads Adventure Park. The trust partners with the Casper Rotary during the festival for the Great Duck Derby. The festival, which began in 1992 as a way to celebrate the completion of a portion of the river trail, is a family-friendly event featuring live music, food, games, craft beer tasting and more.
New to the festival this year, Emery said, is a cornhole tournament. There will also be giant Jenga and fly-fishing activities, and the Science Zone and Audubon of the Rockies will offer activities for children.
- What: 2016 Riverfest
- When: noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 20
- Where: Crossroads Adventure Park, 1101 N. Poplar St.
- Cost: free
The Platte River Trails Trust offers several resources for those interested in taking advantage of the city’s numerous trails. Hard copy maps are free to the public and are available at the Tate Pumphouse or on the trust’s website. The Pumphouse also offers public restrooms, which are open from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. during the summer months.
One of the trust’s newest resources is its Outdoor Explorer Kit, which is free to kids of all ages, Emery noted. The booklet is filled with activities ranging from art to history that kids and families can use when exploring the Platte River Trail. Copies of the booklet are available at the Tate Pumphouse, the Nic, the Science Zone, Natrona County Public Library, Art 321 and Game and Fish.
For more information about the Platte River Trails Trust, news about the city’s trails or upcoming events, visit www.platterivertrails.com. “Our trails are free to everyone, regardless of income level or ability,” said Emery. “Everybody is welcome on the trail.”