Skyline Trail Project breaks ground

With the wind blowing and a shaggy group of mule deer watching from a distance, a group of people gathered on South Hill last Thursday and dug their golden shovels into the ground. With that, the Skyline Trail Project officially began.

The Skyline Trail is an extension of the current Greenbelt Trail System, as well as a collaboration between the Green River Greenbelt Task Force (GBTF) and several community partners who came together to make it happen. The trail will begin on Upland Way with a parking lot, make its way up South Hill, travel along the ridge, and drop down behind the Western Wyoming Community College Green River campus. The trail is also designed to be accessible and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

The project has been two years in the making, according to GBTF Chairman John Freeman, and couldn't have happened without multiple people and groups coming together to make it possible.

"This was a collective group effort, which is what most of the Greenbelt Task Force projects are," Freeman said.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on May 2, Freeman was joined by Dustin Shillcox, Green River City Council members, representatives from Searle Brothers Construction, William H. Smith Engineering, the Bureau of Land Management, and several other community leaders and residents connected to the project.

The task force had the vision of expanding the Greenbelt and providing more access and opportunities to everyone. Specifically, this project was spearheaded and pursued by Tom Wilson.

"He's the driving force," Freeman said of Wilson. "He got everybody together to get this done."

The project got off the ground in a significant way when Dustin Shillcox heard about it. After he was paralyzed from the waste down, Shillcox started a foundation to focus on helping those with disabilities and limited mobility. The Skyline Trail Project was a perfect fit for the kind of project he likes to support.

"When I was told about this expansion of the Greenbelt, it hit home with me because I grew up here, I've been in these mountains, I've walked around. And when I got that taken away from me, when I couldn't do it, I realized I was able to give back, not just for people with disabilities, but this community," Shillcox said.

His way of giving back to the community through the Skyline Trail Project was by coming forward with a $100,000 donation to get it started.

Star photo by Hannah Romero

Dustin Shillcox speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Skyline Trail. Shillcox gave a $100,000 donation to the project to help support accesible opportunities for those with limited mobility. Those listening to Dustin include, from left, Green River Chamber Director Lisa Herrera, City Council Member Sherry Bushman, and Sweetwater County Museum Director and GBTF member Dave Mead.

"His commitment to improving the lives of the mobility challenged community is overwhelming and he is genuinely a community hero," Wilson said.

Shillcox turned that appreciation around by noting that Wilson is one of his own heroes, and is someone who has done so much for the the city, the schools, and the people, all while staying humble and not asking for recognition. Shillcox expressed his gratitude to be able to work with Wilson and help make this project happen.

Others who stepped in to make the project a reality were William H. Smith Engineering, who donated over $60,000 in in-kind services by providing the engineering to keep the trail in compliance with disability standards, and Searle Brothers Construction, who donated over $150,000 in in-kind services by agreeing to complete the entire project for the price of fuels and consumables.

The task force also received assistance from the Bureau of Land Management Rock Springs Field Office, the City of Green River, Western Wyoming Community College, and Aggie Grazing to work through details of the project, from land ownership to the NEPA process to designing and implementing an informative sign project for the trail.

"It's a really unique kind of recreational experience, especially for the area that we live in," BLM representative Lauren Haz said of the Skyline Trail. "I think it's going to open up opportunities for a lot of people."

Green River Mayor Pete Rust agreed, noting the trail will bring people into Green River and give them something they can't access in other places.

"It's just a really, really good community effort," Rust said. "It's a real asset to the community."

Star photo by Hannah Romero

Those who participated in the Skyline Trail Project Groundbreaking include, from left, Dave Mead, George Jost, Lauren Haz, Kylie Searle, Dustin Shillcox, Will Dolinar, John Freeman and Pete Rust.

The Skyline Trail will be designed for non-motorized multi-use and will be a soft-surface trail, not concrete or asphalt, according to the GBTF. It will be barrier-free, but will be designed with a low grade, with most of the trail under a 10% grade. It will follow grade, slope and materials expectations using the United States Access Board's Summary of Accessibility Standards for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas provided by the BLM. Portions of the trail will be fully ADA compliant, and the trail will be created to accommodate Specifically Designed Adaptive Trail Chairs to provide more opportunities for individuals suffering with mobility issues.

"This will offer all individuals a chance to enjoy the outdoor experience at a manageable incline beyond the flat surfaces of the city," the GBTF said. "This trail will provide an incredible hiking experience allowing breathtaking views from nearly 1000' above the valley floor."

Searle Brothers was set to begin construction on the trail this week, and will continue building as long as the task force can keep diesel in their tanks, according to Freeman. Those who wish to donate money to the project to support the trail and "keep Searle Brothers moving dirt" can reach out to the Greenbelt Task Force.


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