You’re changing lives and building a love of the land
Not that long ago it was a lot harder to experience the beauty and magic of nature along the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.
For some, it was difficult because of their busy family lives – there wasn’t a lot of time to travel far to hike, or to take a scenic drive amidst the beauty of Sheridan County’s iconic ranches and farmlands.
For others, like many of the kids in our elementary schools, it just wasn’t part of their day. It’s not that they didn’t want to go outside – these were the kids who wiggled in their seats at school and gazed longingly out the window, their minds drifting away from their work – it’s just that there wasn’t an easy, timely, or regular way to get them there.
But that’s changed. In October 2017, thanks to you and growing community support, we collectively took a giant step forward with the opening of a new section of Red Grade Trails.
And people love them.
Kids becoming immersed in nature
Teachers from Big Horn and Sheridan schools now actively use Red Grade Trails as an outdoor laboratory and classroom, while outdoor clubs run or bike on the trails. Youth camps use Red Grade Trails during the summer as the spot to inspire kids about local history, geology, wildlife, and pollinators.
This was true during an Unplug event hosted by Sheridan Community Land Trust and Science Kids when local naturalist Steve Dudley stood on the dirt trails and helped point out a few of the animals and plants that live there. Each child was able to see something new, whether it was a native grass or a bird they’d never noticed before. Because of its success, SCLT will hold another nature scavenger hunt on May 11 from noon to 1 p.m. at Red Grade Trails.
This is where the love of nature starts: close to the mountains, or in wide-open spaces and the imaginations of our youth.
A community trail
With the opening of the new trail, more and more people on foot can now enjoy the intricacies of the landscape right in front of their eyes. Red Grade Trails is a place that allows anyone to enjoy a Wyoming sunset, or a moment of solitude in nature, just minutes from home.
The trail isn’t just for youth or athletes, either.
It’s providing a way for elders, or those who aren’t physically able to hike at higher elevations, a chance to get outdoors. People like Bob May, who has lived here in Sheridan for more than 30 years, but no longer can hike up into the mountains or make the drive over to Buffalo.
“This is an amazing gift,” Bob says. “For me and my friends, we never thought we’d get back into the mountains like this, given our age.”
Scientist Stephen Jay Gould once said that people will only fight for that which they love – and research shows he’s right.
That means that if we want Sheridan County to retain these special places, we must make sure that people have a chance to fall in love with them.
And that’s what is happening, thanks to you.
As Emeritus Sheridan Community Land Trust Board Member Sally Morton said recently, “How does one put value on an experience like watching a fox bound across a meadow, or the opportunity to breathe in fresh mountain air as you walk along the trails?”
We know. It’s called the value of community.
Photos: Sheridan Community Land Trust