EVANSTON — Southwest Wyoming Off-road Trails (SWOT) organizers held a public meeting at the Strand Theater in Evanston last week on Thursday, June 11, in an effort to make the off-roads trails a reality.
Approximately 60 people attended the 4 p.m. meeting, with at least 11 of those participating via videoconference.
Herald publisher Mark Tesoro, along with Rick Schuler, district ranger for the Evanston/Mountain View District for the U.S. Forest Service — both key organizers for the group — were joined by Evanston Mayor Kent Williams on the stage to open the meeting.
Tesoro gave the audience background information on SWOT.
“Our group is not a formal organization with officers and bylaws,” Tesoro said. “We are just interested in getting the outdoor trail system going and have been meeting with agencies that will be involved. We’ve met with the mayor and city council and with the county commissioners. We feel this could be an economic driver for the communities involved and would help southwest Wyoming become a destination for ATV enthusiasts and tourists.”
Tesoro said the group is looking at existing county roads and trails and wants to tie together the communities of Evanston, Bridger Valley, Kemmerer, Star Valley and Afton and eventually Sweetwater County. The slogan of SWOT is: “Connect the communities, connect the forests and connect to the historical sites.”
Tesoro said the group has also met with the Uinta County Economic Development Commission (UCEDC), the Forest Service and are attempting to work with Union Pacific and local ranchers for access permission.
Tseoro introduced Brian Bremner of Garfield County, Utah, who could be viewed on a stage screen via Zoom.
Bremner said, there are 3,000 miles of ATV trails In Garfield County, that encompass land going through national forests, and 90 percent over land owned by the federal government and public lands. Bremner said residents in his community of 5,000 are very aggressive about keeping public lands open.
“Panquitch, [Utah], was a resource-based community until the mines closed about 30 years ago and we struggled. Today, 44 percent of our income base comes from tourism and recreation,” Bremner said. “We have three national parks nearby and national forest and are a rural area. Years ago, you saw more boats come into our area, but now 60 percent of recreationists are ATV folks and only about 40 percent [bring] boats,”
Tesoro said, “From Evanston to Bridger Valley and into the forest is the first leg of the trails we are working to get off the ground and the most viable to start with. Lincoln County Commissioner Kent Connelly is working to connect Kemmerer with us also. There is a push to have trails go across the entire state. We want to bring Utah people here to cool off in the summer and encourage lots of ATV tourists to come. Existing small businesses will be helped and maybe we can even attract new ones.”