Towns, county merge to align bike path strategy
SUBLETTE COUNTY – Towns and county employees who are relevant and responsible for maintaining bike paths met for a confab with the Board of Sublette County Commissioners at its regular meeting on Oct. 2.
Networks of pathways are found throughout the county for bicycling, walking, horseback riding and running. They are designed for convenience, access and safety – but who is actually responsible for their maintenance was a question asked by commissioners at their previous Sept. 19 meeting.
Town crews in Marbleton and Big Piney maintain some paved pathways that might actually fall under the county’s purview, it turns out. And while Pinedale is responsible for most of the mileage in its limits, some portions might Sublette County’s responsibilities.
Figuring all of that out was placed on the Oct. 2 agenda for those involved to weigh in.
“These pathways are a great asset that Sublette County has,” said commission chair Sam White. “Five or six are in horrible condition that nobody maintains or nobody takes ownership. We’re trying to get some sort of (plan). They are an asset to protect.”
Sublette County Recreation Board chair Monte Bolgiano and vice chair Roger Weber sat with commissioners Tom Noble, Doug Vickrey, Dave Stephens, Mack Bradley and White with Road & Bridge supervisor Billy Pape in the front row.
Also present were Pinedale planner Abram Pierce, Marbleton public works boss Todd Brown and Big Piney parks-streets supervisor Kara Losik.
“Historically, if the pathway is touching a county road, it’s the county’s,” Bolgiano said. “Pinedale handles the one by Fremont Lake Road to the split, then us (the rec board). The first year we piggybacked off Road & Bridge.”
Bradley asked who maintains the Cottonwood trail around Marbleton and Big Piney – “It’s in rough shape. Residents mow it a little. Marbleton would probably do more.”
Losik said she has used Big Piney’s street sweeper some but the last time HK Construction did an oil overlay, it cemented grit to the pavement.
As for the Split Diamond trail in Pinedale, Bolgiano said he met with the Pinedale officials to discuss dealing with tree roots that break it up. Next year, he said, 4 miles of the Pinedale South are scheduled for upgrades.
The rec board uses its diminished maintenance budget or works with Road & Bridge, he added.
Weber said his priority is to keep the paths clean. But hiring a Bobcat, sweeper, brush and fuel cost at least $800 a day. “We can’t spend $800 to sweep every time it rains.”
Bolgiano said when available, he occasionally borrows a contractor’s sweeper. The rec board’s day-to-day maintenance budget was “slashed” and for awhile, Pinedale paths weren’t being plowed. Pinedale agreed to plow “critical pathways” around the schools and ballfields, he added.
Rec board members are volunteers and learned that some paths can’t be plowed or swept along state routes because WYDOT comes through with a plow or mower. An example is Ehman Lane.
“The rec board has done as good a job as it could with its money,” Losik said. “The towns have picked up the slack. I have never seen the county (Road & Bridge) out sweeping bike paths.”
The path between Big Piney and Marbleton is essential for the low-income residents to walk to a store or bank, she said.
“We have a great relationship with Marbleton,” she said. “We pick up a lot of slack down there. I change brooms twice a year. We do it because nobody else would do it if we don’t.”
Marbleton takes care of the newer pathway from town to the fairgrounds, Brown explained, and he doesn’t know if any agreement is in place.
“We need to put all of this information to one person, who’s doing what,” Weber said.
The county is responsible for most of the bike paths outside municipalities, they determined.
Eyes on it
Noble asked who would evaluate bike paths’ conditions. White asked Pape what his department could do.
“Bike paths need to be inspected and be on a plan,” Pape said. “They are volunteers; we need somebody to do it. I try to sweep in the spring but I only have one sweeper.”
Chip sealing and other path maintenance could be done like county roads, inspected visually every year. Pape said he hopes to get five to seven years’ wear from chip sealing.
“We need to have someone with eyes on it, just like the roads.”
Mark Eatinger of Rio Verde Engineering said he could inventory paths that need chip-sealing as he does with Pape for county roads.
“Another conversation,” Noble said. “I’m not comfortable with an engineering firm we have telling us which roads and scheduling the roads. They put out the bid packages. … No hard feelings but the same firm giving us a road schedule and now we’re talking about bike paths?”
He suggested it as a UW engineering project. Pape said the program “is spread pretty thin. They’re two years out.”
“How I determine roads – cracks, soft spots, Mark writes down everything I tell him,” Pape replied. “’Paradise Road has spider cracks.’ But I am the one that tells Mark what we’re going to do.”
White asked to have bike paths “folded into” the Rio Verde contract.
“A lot is done on a handshake,” Bradley said. “We have the ones outside town limits.”
Rec board member Betty Cheeney said the board contracts in winter to groom cross-country ski trails and suggested the county contract out sweeping pathways.
“Looking forward, I want you guys to come back with a plan so the municipalities and county all work together and Billy will come back with ideas on (Road & Bridge),” White said.