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Locals at meeting voiced opposition to turning Badlands into state park

(Photo by Ken Lund)

By Virginia Giorgis
Bridger Valley Pioneer
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

LYMAN — Valley residents consider the Badlands southeast of Mountain View their own area and were adamant they didn’t want the area turned into a state park or highly advertised to bring in hordes of people from outside the area. 

This seemed to be the general consensus of the many speakers at the meeting at the Mountain View Town Park recently. 

The proposal, according to SWOT (Southwest Off Road Trails) president Mark Tesoro, was an effort to set up the guidelines to protect the area, establish trails and get a heads-up on the anticipated increase in use of the area.  As he said, “They will come.” 

The site being proposed as a state park and a trail riding area would include approximately 60 acres in the area of the Badlands. 

A lot of Valley residents and others already use this area and were concerned how the change would affect local use and those who already use the area. 

Jon Conrad, WHD 19, summed up the tenor of the meeting when he said there was “overwhelming evidence that we as a community are not in favor” of the proposal to turn the Badlands into a state park or create off road trails in the area. 

Tesoro noted several times during the meeting that it was a discussion. 

He also cited several Internet and web sites which already promote the Uinta County area as a great place to recreate. He said several times that there are already people who are coming, and as the word gets out, more will come. 

According to Tesoro, SWOT had worked the past three years on the idea of the off-road trail system and had advertised county roads for this use. He said this change would also bring more people to the area, which in turn would help develop the economy as they spent money in local areas by dining, buying gas, perhaps staying in a motel and other ways. 

Those who spoke at the recent meeting in Mountain View basically said they didn’t want more people coming to the area of the Badlands and increased use of Uinta County Roads. Landowners questioned how the impact would affect their property. 

Teresa Kellum said she “owned land right up next to the road on the other side,” and has already had problems with vandalism as people had cut her fences, let her horses out, burned wood pallets on her ground and other problems. 

Others questioned how the change in the area would translate into problems for those who had grazing rights in the area. 

Karen Henry noted the area would not stay the same and grazing rights would be affected. Tesoro said SWOT had worked with residents of other counties, and they had looked at the economic benefits that would help local areas. 

He said Lincoln, Fremont and Carbon Counties had already approved the use of all of their county roads. 

Sweetwater County was also working on approving county roads for off road use. 

Tesoro said the Uinta County Commissioners had already approved the use of 22 of Uinta County’s 89 roads that ATVs and side-by-sides can use, and SWOT had created signage to signify which roads these vehicles could use. 

There is signage “on about 110 miles of roads already,” Tesoro said. 

Members of the homeowners guild for the property development on County Road 173 south of I-80 and Piedmont were adamant they didn’t want the increased traffic in their area, 

The development is in the Piedmont area and Guild Reservoir, and the guild spokesperson said the use of the road would add to the night noise and garbage. He also said many of the property owners had moved to the area to get rid of the problems of congestion where they formerly lived. 

Tesoro cited the web pages by property owners in the Piedmont area promoting hunting and more and said, “That traffic is coming. They are looking for somewhere to go.” 

Local rancher Joe Hickey said the Valley people who live in Bridger Valley and Uinta County are fortunate. He noted landowners can borrow money on their BLM cattle leases and there are roads that cross the area. 

“It is better off here than being a millionaire in Texas…Landowners, they are trying to make a living…, Hickey said. “Honor the landowners.” 

Tesoro reiterated that the meeting was a discussion, but the idea of doing something in the area was as “…a way to protect it for you, for citizens of the Valley for future use.” 

He repeatedly noted during the meeting that the outsiders were already coming and there would be a growth in numbers of people coming to the area. 

There was also a discussion on the time frame and how long it would take to turn the Badlands into a state park, and according to state officials it would be a long, on-going process. 

Initially, the state would have to receive a letter from BLM requesting that it take over management of the area. 

There was also some discussion on the BLM proposal for change on BLM property bringing in conservation on multiple use. This idea, statewide, has received negative responses from Wyoming residents and state officials.

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