Frequently Asked Questions
What were the purchase terms in the original offer?
The purchase agreement stated that the land could be purchased by Albany County, the University of Wyoming, or the State of Wyoming for the appraised value. ($10.5 Million) The original purchase agreement was for a one-year term and was later extended to support the due diligence required to complete the Wyoming State Land exchange process. The original purchase agreement is available at: https://www.co.albany.wy.us/Data/Sites/1/Purchase%20and%20Sale%20Agreement%20(Pilot%20Hill).pdf
I heard the State completed a land exchange for a portion of the Pilot Hill property. How did that work?
The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) agreed to a proposal to sell multiple isolated state parcels and to utilize the proceeds of those land sales to acquire the Pilot Hill land.
The State owns parcels of land scattered across Wyoming, which are managed to produce income for the State Common School Fund through different Lease fees for uses such as grazing, mining, logging, and recreation. The State Lands also provide Wyoming’s citizens with access to open space for fishing and hunting and other types of outdoor recreation. Some state parcels are inaccessible to the public as they are surrounded by private land.
Several landowners in SE WY were interested in purchasing isolated state parcels that were located within their private land holdings, rather than maintain leases from the State to utilize the land for ranching activities. In the exchange proposal initiated by the Pilot Hill Committee, OSLI evaluated and conducted appraisals on the isolated parcels proposed for exchange to decide if these parcels should be sold to private landowners with the agreement that the income from those sales would be utilized by OSLI to purchase the Pilot Hill property. The exchange proposal also designated that Albany County would secure a long-term lease agreement on the Pilot Hill land that would generate income for the State Common School Fund.
The Pilot Hill exchange analysis was approved by the Wyoming State Lands Board in June 2020. In addition to securing revenue for the Common School Fund, the exchange was of additional benefit to the State as it consolidated State land parcels and increased access for citizens to State lands for recreation.
The closing on the exchange and the execution of a Special Use Recreation and Wildlife Habitat Management Area Lease on the State land was completed in August 2020.
While the State Land exchange accomplished the important step of the land being acquired for public use, significant expenses will be incurred in order to develop public use infrastructure on Pilot Hill and to establish a long-term management and maintenance fund for the area. Fundraising efforts are ongoing, and donations are always appreciated!
How was the remainder of the Pilot Hill land purchased?
The University of Wyoming purchased approximately a third of the Pilot Hill property through a traditional sale/purchase process. The restriction that the Pilot Hill area will be managed collaboratively and as one unit was included in the UW purchase agreement.
How will the land be managed? Who will be responsible?
The non-profit Pilot Hill Inc. Board of Directors will serve as the governing body to oversee all the Pilot Hill land.
The Pilot Hill Recreation Area will be managed similarly to a state or county park with a primary focus on public, non-motorized recreation.
The Pilot Hill Wildlife Habitat Management Area will be managed in partnership with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with a primary focus on crucial wildlife habitat needs.
Details on the management goals are outlined in the Pilot Hill Land Use Plan. This plan was developed with guidance by project partners including Laramie Rivers Conservation District, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Wyoming State Parks, US Forest Service, the City of Laramie and Albany County among others, and was based on extensive engagement with the public regarding the collective community vision for the area. A firm that specializes in open space planning was hired to facilitate the process and provide financial estimates, a trails concept plan, and the final plan document.
How much will it cost to maintain?
Initial estimates for annual management range from $100,000 - $125,000. In addition to the annual expenses, full trail and user amenities development costs are estimated at $1.5 Million - $3 Million.
Tell me more about the Land Use planning process.
In July 2019, the Pilot Hill Committee and Albany County Commissioners hired the planning firm SE Group to prepare a Land Use Plan for the Pilot Hill property. SE Group joined with our key partners and the Pilot Hill committees to facilitate a community-driven planning process that included trail concepts and management objectives for the property.
The planning process began in earnest in September 2019, with an SE Group visit to Laramie, and was finalized in July 2020. A broad spectrum of community members participated in numerous meetings and forums, in surveys and through the Pilot Hill Community Access Days to provide initial ideas, feedback on concepts and to vet the draft plans. The plan is meant to be a flexible and evolving document, and is available for review at www.pilothill.org/plan
How can I help?
Keep up to date on Pilot Hill by signing up for our email list at PilotHill.org, following @PilotHillProject on Facebook, by making a donation at www.pilothill.org/support, and by volunteering during our upcoming on-site work and trail building days.
How can the purchase of this property benefit Laramie’s and Albany County’s economy?
A growing body of research is attempting to quantify the tangible and intangible benefits of public lands adjacent to communities. A report called “West is Best: How Public Lands in the West Create a Competitive Economic Advantage” finds that public lands offer a competitive advantage to high-tech services industries by allowing them to attract a skilled workforce, which is a key ingredient for economic growth. The report was prepared by Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group that works to improve community development and land management decisions. 1
Trails also influence decisions by businesses to relocate. Companies want to be in communities with attractive amenities so they can hire qualified employees. Proximity to trails and open space is a popular amenity in a community, according to Governor Mead’s Outdoor Recreation Task Force. 2
Studies also indicate an increase in property values near trails, as they are the top amenity desired by homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. 3
When it comes to quantifying the health benefits of trails, a 2004 study found that for every dollar invested in a trail network, the local community experienced almost $3 in medical benefits. 4
Are there other examples where the establishment of open space parks at the edge of towns clearly supports economic development?
Yes! Numerous studies on the topic can be found at a database called the Trails Benefits Library, which was created by Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group that works to improve community development and land management decisions. 5 Examples include:
- Montana’s Whitefish Trail network, a 44-mile trail system used primarily by locals, generates an estimated $6.4 million in consumer spending annually. $3.6 million of that spending is from local trail users.
- In the Mad River Valley of Vermont, an 8-mile trail network sees almost 40,000 annual visits, generating $1 million in consumer spending, $182,000 in federal, state, and local taxes, and 13 jobs.
- Boise, Idaho, has an extensive trails network connecting neighborhoods and public lands called the Ridge to Rivers Trail System. The system started with 12 miles in 1992 and has grown to include 190 miles as of 2016. A 2012 study found that the trail system provided almost $12 million in benefits every year through property value increases, reduced health care spending, public utilities savings and social cohesion. 6
- In Crosby, Minnesota, a new 25-mile trail network attracts 20,000 visitors annually who generate an estimated $2 million for the local economy. The new trail system has also spurred 15 new businesses in town, many of which were started by young people who have chosen to live and work in the area due to the trail system (International Mountain Bike Association)
How can I make a pledge or donation?
Donations to the Pilot Hill Project are tax-deductible and payable through a fund administered by the Wyoming Community Foundation (WYCF). Donations can be mailed to Pilot Hill Project, PO Box 487, Laramie WY 82073 or made electronically at www.pilothill.org/support
Investments in Pilot Hill will be leveraged to develop the public use infrastructure (trails, parking areas etc.) and manage the site.
What other sources of funding are being explored?
The Pilot Hill Inc. Board is pursuing funding from all available sources including public and private grants and in-kind partnership agreements. In addition, the Board anticipates hosting events and races to benefit Pilot Hill.
Will Pilot Hill raise my county taxes or affect the county budget?
The Pilot Hill Board is focused on pursuing grants, donations, and other non-tax forms of financing that do not affect Albany County’s operating budget. Should a tax levy or bond issue be proposed, it would be subject to voter approval in an election.
Is this critical range for any game animals?
Yes. According to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Pilot Hill lowlands provide crucial winter range for pronghorn that range in the vicinity and across a large area to the north. Crucial winter range refers to habitat that can support wildlife even during severe winters, as it is the most likely to be free from snow cover and provide food. This land is the most important habitat for ensuring the health of a herd. The Pilot Hill land is especially important for pronghorn because other areas in their historic range along the eastern side of town have already been developed.
The higher elevation areas of the parcel serve as summer range for local mule deer and as critical winter range for elk, mule deer and moose. In addition, the property provides habitat for many sensitive plant and wildlife species. The site likely supports two species previously listed under the Endangered Species Act — the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. Another likely occupant, the little brown bat, is currently under consideration for possible listing on the Endangered or Threatened lists.
An evaluation by the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, or WYNDD, indicates the property likely supports 71 species that are designated as “sensitive” by the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service, or they’re designated as “species of greatest conservation need” by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. These species include 40 birds, 19 mammals, at least seven invertebrates, four plants, and one amphibian.
Can recreation coexist with wildlife?
Yes. The Pilot Hill Inc. Board, in partnership with Wyoming Game and Fish Department will be working to ensure that minimizing impacts to wildlife will be a priority in management decisions. One example of this prioritization can be seen in the Pilot Hill Rules and Regulations. The Pilot Hill Wildlife Habitat Management Area will be closed to human presence from January 1 to May 1 annually so that wintering big game can benefit from as little human disturbance as possible during the harshest winter months.
How can Pilot Hill protect Laramie’s drinking water?
The Casper Aquifer is a primary source of drinking water for the City of Laramie and for private well owners in the region. The Pilot Hill area sits atop the Casper Aquifer recharge zone, where surface water flows underground to replenish groundwater stored in the aquifer.
Pollutants are also able to enter the aquifer through the recharge zone. The recharge zone is vulnerable to contaminants from most kinds of human development, such as septic systems in homes, storm runoff along roadways and agricultural chemicals and waste. The recharge zone in this area is particularly vulnerable to the infiltration of contaminants because the highly permeable fractured bedrock is largely uncovered by soil or overlying rock formations.
Is recreation an allowed use under the City and County aquifer protection plans?
Yes. While many types of commercial and industrial activities are prohibited by the city’s and county’s aquifer protection plans, outdoor recreation is not prohibited.
Access and Use
Where can I get a view of Pilot Hill?
If you live in Laramie, step out your door and look to the east for a view of Pilot Hill. While driving east on Grand Avenue or on Interstate 80, you can view most of the Pilot Hill area on the eastern side of town. The ridge above the Jacoby Golf Course also offers a great view of the property.
The general boundaries are I-80 to the south, Laramie city limits to the west, Jack Rabbit Canyon to the north and the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest to the east. Maps showing the boundaries are available at PilotHill.org/plan.
How can I access the recreation trails?
You can access the Pilot Hill Recreation Area from several locations in town year-round:
- Corner of 45th and Crow Streets
- East end of Willett Drive
- North end of N. Boulder Drive
- North end of Wister Drive
Each of these local access sites have somewhat limited street parking. Please be respectful in these Laramie neighborhoods by parking across the street (rather than in front of) private residences.
During the summer and fall (June – Nov), you can also access Pilot Hill through adjoining lands in the Medicine Bow National Forest on the eastern end of Pilot Hill.
To reach the eastern (top) portion of the Pilot Hill Recreation Area, travel east on I-80 to WY Hwy 210/Happy Jack Road. Travel East on Hwy 210 to Forest Road 703 and turn north, following FR 703 to the Pilot Hill border.
NOTE – a seasonal closure is enforced on FR703 that generally extends from Mid to late November thru May. Also, the radio tower facilities at the top of Pilot Hill are on private property. Thank you for respecting seasonal closures and the private property owner’s rights by not trespassing / visiting the tower sites.
Will the Pilot Hill trail system connect with trails in the Medicine Bow National Forest?
Yes. An initial connecting trail has been identified. Additional trail options will be identified through the “Gateways Planning Project” that the USFS is currently conducting to update all non-motorized trails within the Pole Mountain Unit of MBNF.
What kinds of recreational uses will be allowed?
The Pilot Hill Recreation area is now open to the public for non-motorized recreation such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.
The Pilot Hill Wildlife Habitat Management Area is currently restricted to hiking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing. In the future, this area will also include opportunities for hunting and for biking on a future multi-use trail.
Note: The Pilot Hill Wildlife Habitat Management Area is closed to all human presence from January 1st thru April 30th annually. This reduces stress on wildlife during critical winter and spring seasons.
Is there motorized access?
The purchase agreement and lease both restrict motorized access to authorized vehicles for emergency and maintenance access only. Motorized handicap tools such as wheelchairs are also allowed.
Will different types of recreation be separated?
Most of the trails on Pilot Hill are designed for multi-use as outlined in the Land Use Plan. However, the goal is to provide Albany County residents and visitors with a quality experience in the great outdoors, which includes being able to have a quiet walk with great wildlife viewing opportunities, a horseback ride that is not compromised by the sudden appearance of a fast-moving cyclist, and a mountain bike ride that offers an uninterrupted descent. The planning process included these considerations and accommodates a variety of trails on this large expanse of land.