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Residents oppose Stewart Trail proposal

Residents living near the proposed development on Stewart Trail contacted Lincoln County Commissioners this week to voice their “opposition to the master plan for the BLM outlined by Lincoln County and Y2 Consultants.” They want to suggest a more reasonable, less-impactful plan. 

Dave Schultz, who lives next to the proposed development, emailed the commissioners to express his thoughts on the matter, “We were drawn to Wyoming in general, and Star Valley in particular, for the relatively unspoiled serenity and beauty of the land, the common-sense traditional values of the people who live here, and the small, reasonable system of government that the people of Wyoming have developed and maintained over the years.”

The yellowish-green reclining L shape with the small blue dot shows the area of proposed development. (Map courtesy of Dave Schultz)

In an interview with SVIs Duke Dance January 28, Commissioner Jerry Hansen commented: “It’s a matter of planning for just about whatever would logically fit or work on the property. Even if it wouldn’t necessarily ever come to fruition.”

The current Recreation and Public Purpose lease the Lincoln County has with the BLM on the Stewart Trail area has three essential requirements––from the BLM side: that there is not discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin. The county must have a plan of development and management that aligns with the county management plan and BLM resource management plans, and it must make no more than reasonable charges––comparable to other installations managed by other state and local agencies. 

Typically the BLM will review the plan of management on a R&PP lease on a five-year cycle. A former BLM land manager, who asked to remain unidentified, said, “The reviewing land manager will bring the plan of operation and walk the ground looking to see if the proposed elements are being accomplished. If they are, at a reasonable point, the ownership of the land can be “conveyed” or transferred to the county, if the county is fulfilling what it proposes and continues to do so.” If the county substantially changes the use of the original plan, the BLM could come and take the land back even though the county holds the ownership deed (known as a patent) on the land.

An R&PP lease comes at a very reasonable cost to any entity or agency, both for leasing and ultimately for “conveyance,” or purchase. 

The current proposal includes some camping spots, day-use picnic areas, places for snowshoeing trails, continued equestrian use, and horse trailer parking areas. Hansen explained, “This is a great corridor into more public lands and to hunting. Potentially we could include a toboggan run, a pavilion, but remember, it’s a list of maybe what could be wanted by some, not necessarily what’s eventually going to happen.”

Asked if the opposition to the proposal is universal among the 30+ families living near the Stewart Trail area, Schultz replied, “I’m not aware of anyone who supports it.” Residents are concerned they would be directly affected by more traffic, more noise, more litter and more disruption they believe will come with the Stewart Trail proposal. 

The plan also proposes two RV campsites, multiple restroom facilities and an improved parking lot to be constructed on the area known as the “flats.” Schultz outlined other reasons he and his neighbors dislike the proposal: “An RV facility built for transient tenants is hardly consistent with the current occupancy of this bucolic family neighborhood. Neighborhood residents including children, pets, and large wild game (deer, elk, moose) all frequent this area with regularity, not to mention the occasional wandering head of livestock.” 

The area on Stewart Trail Road where Lincoln County is proposing two RV parks accommodating 9 vehicles in each.

Commissioner Hansen encouraged residents and those with an interest in the area to weigh in with their opinion. “We continue to take public input via letters and email, and other methods. But we really want to emphasize how much we need folks to turn out to the open house on February 11. And what we find is, the people closest to it would be the ones that would benefit the most and would use it the most. So come help us plan for this. And then we’ll go from there as to what really occurs and what is put on the ground, if anything.”

Residents outlined further concerns with the current proposal. There is only one road for ingress and egress. The road is not in great shape. “We are concerned about a firefighting vehicle being able to get in.”

All these current residents would be subject to disruption and danger by the frequent coming and going of lumbering RVs piloted by nonresidents unfamiliar with the area. Schultz commented, “Please ask yourself, ‘Is an RV park something I would want in my neighborhood?’”

While viewing an RV park in a residential neighborhood as bad, there are, according to residents who live next to the 160-acre plot, multiple other negative issues with the proposal:

There is only one point of ingress/egress to the proposed recreation area. That access point is from Stewart Trail at the site of the proposed RV park. This funnels all traffic to and from the facility’s tent camping sites, outdoor party areas, cabin/kitchen building, etc. through the single two-lane residential road that runs through the Stewart trail neighborhood. This will increase the impact to the neighborhood residents and wildlife above and beyond the proposed RV park.

Increased usage and the encouragement of individual and group camping cannot help but increase the fire danger in the already tinder-dry forest. With only one road leading into the proposed recreation area, containing even a small wild fire would be difficult, endangering scores of houses immediately next to the proposed facility, not to mention the National Forest and Wyoming Wildlife Habitat Management areas that are also next to the proposed facility.

The encouragement of more usage will increase the number of negative interactions between people and the large game wildlife (deer, elk, moose, etc.). These animals currently frequent this area and are especially sensitive in the spring calving season. Currently the relatively light usage of the area naturally limits those negative spring time interactions.

Local hunters currently harvest both birds and big game wildlife in the area of the proposed facility. The proposed facility would interfere materially with these hunts and increased use of this area would raise the chance of a mishap. Does the county propose to ban hunting in this area?

Stewart Peak overlooks Stewart Trail area where Lincoln County is proposing new development on a Recreation & Public Purpose lease.

During the heavy tourist months in summer and winter, law enforcement and other public services are stretched in the area. The community has seen what happens in the Palisades and Greys River camping areas when some RVs and tent campers decide to take up semi-permanent residence as squatters and are no longer recreational campers. The crime, litter and sewage that follows these squatters as well as their general disregard for the area’s property and residents is not something that we should want to burden our law enforcement and other public servants with.

There are also issues of project cost, maintenance, snow removal, etc. but these are all ultimately budgetary and resource concerns rather than structural defects with the proposed use of the land. It remains to be seen if Lincoln County has the resources to carry out these proposals.

The current state of this BLM land seems to meet the needs of the community very well. It currently provides habitat for wildlife, recreational opportunities for hikers, bikers, hunters, snowshoers, snowmobilers, ATV riders and equestrians; access to the national forest, mountains and Greys River trails; natural scenic green space for the community and a cost-effective recreational area for the community.

Schultz finally commented, “We have heard of no request or demand from anyone in the community that there needs to be a change in the nature of the land use for this BLM parcel. The right plan for this parcel of land should follow a ‘Less is More’ attitude. The right plan should protect the current level of public access to the property and secure the lease so that the county can ensure that access.”

Interested citizens may access the public open house via ZOOM at:

https://zoom.us/j/92570561634?pwd=YVlvanlTeDEzYzVKdEF2LzZWNVYvUT09 Use Meeting ID: 925 7056 1634 and Passcode: 402799, or call in at 1 (253) 215-8782

 

Lincoln County will receive public comments through February 25th.

 

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