Old Quarry Trails created

By: 
Hannah Gross, NLJ Correspondent

Photo by Hannah Gross/NLJ

Liliya Giroux, Jared Caing and Emma Patron, students with the Montana Conservation Corps, dig out part of “Hairnet Trail” at the Old Quarry Trails being developed a mile past the LAK Reservoir. The MCC signed a three-year contract to work on the trails, and the first crew of five workers came from June 8-14. See story on Page 11.

 

Between the Flying V and Serenity Trail, Weston County has offered well over 20 miles of trails for hikers and bikers to enjoy, but this summer there are even more trails available to the public. 

Jeremy Dedic, the District 1 assistant district forester for the Wyoming State Forestry Division, has recently been working with the Bureau of Land Management to develop bike trails at the old rock quarry on U.S. Highway 16 just 1 mile southeast of the LAK Reservoir. 

As an avid mountain biker, Dedic has been exploring the area by riding the old cow trails at the quarry over the past three years. After he met Caleb Carter, who is the district manager for Weston County Resource District, the two decided to work together to formalize the rock quarry as an official public trail. 

Dedic reached out to the BLM in 2021 to begin this process, which can sometimes be complicated because it requires meeting the standards of the National Environmental Policy Act. The first step was easier than usual because the rock quarry is already considered a “disturbed area,” and Dedic said the BLM has been very cooperative.

“It’s been really exciting to work with them because they’ve been so willing,” Carter said. “One of the reasons we have public land is for the public to get out
and enjoy it.” 

Because he works with the conservation district, Carter said, he understands the value of preserving the land, adding that people are often more willing to conserve something when they enjoy the access to the land and “hopefully get a deeper value of what we have in Wyoming and Weston County and the Black Hills.” 

“It’s really important for people to have access to it, so they value it,” Carter said.

Because the Old Quarry Trails, as it is officially named, is located in a rock pit with a lot of exposure to sunlight, there isn’t a significant buildup of ice and snow. The community will be able to enjoy the trails nearly year-round.

About 5.5 miles of the trails are currently being developed, but once the rest of the proposed plan gets approved, a total of nearly 16 miles will be available for use, which Dedic said will hopefully be completed in about two years. The trails, which can be used for walking, running or biking, start out relatively easy and increase in difficulty with distance.

“The first bit is to get people comfortable. My idea is to get kids used to riding there, whether it’s at this trail system or the (Flying) V, and then they’ll start riding more,” Dedic said. “As they get older and more experienced, they can ride the technical trails, and hopefully develop a love for something they’ll carry on.” 

The BLM is funding the Old Quarry Trails project, but a private donor gave money to Bent Sprockets, the entity responsible for creating the trails, to provide the equipment to form the first trail — known as Boot Trail. However, Dedic said they will probably start soliciting money soon to help fund the rest of the trails.

Boot Trail, which begins at the parking lot where a kiosk with information is posted, is a 1.5-mile beginner loop with a 6-foot wide base of dirt and gravel. Dedic said it is completely marked, ready for public use and “very easy to walk and very easy to bike.”

The next trail is the 1.8 mile intermediate Hairnet Trail. Although the trail is only partially completed and unmarked, Dedic said, about 1/4 of the trail is already dug out and can be easily followed. Finishing Hairnet is the top priority for the summer, with the work being done by students from the Montana Conservation Corps, as well as creating another intermediate path on what is known as “the second pit.”

Dedic said two advanced or “black diamond” trails are in the plans as well to offer technical riding to bikers. Because it is a canyon, the terrain in some areas is rough and intense, but Dedic wants to make as much of it rideable as possible. 

The future, long-term goal is to make trails that reach Mallo, which would result in 50 miles total of trail.

Forming a trail involves a lot of physical labor, including raking, digging, clearing the brush and making sure there is adequate drainage to sustain erosion long term. Dedic said there is also a design aspect to making the trail user friendly, as well as both safe and fun. 

Linda Hunt, the former Newcastle council member who stimulated the development of Serenity Trail, is also helping with the project, alongside Bent Sprockets, but she said Dedic has been the main person behind all the grunt work. 

“I’m also one of the main users,” Dedic said, with a laugh.

Dedic enjoys creating trails just as much as riding them because it’s always worth it, he said, to see others getting outside and enjoying the trails. Both he and Carter see this project as a way to give back to the community. 

“It’s fun. Sometimes it (riding) is hard, but a lot of times it’s worth it,” Dedic said. “My weirdness is I enjoy digging trails as much as I enjoy riding them … because then somebody like you will go out there, and hopefully you’ll be like, ‘oh that was pretty cool,’ and you go back. That right there is worth it for me — for you to go out there and have fun doing it.”

Carter said there has been a definite interest from the community, and as a trail runner who loves the outdoors, he is excited for others to enjoy it as well. 

“There’s such a disconnect in our world today between people and agriculture,” Carter said. “It’s exciting to go out, work on the trails, and then see people out there enjoying the trails, … so I think it’s important to make that connection.”

 

 

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