March 30, 2023 |

Photo – Map of future National Heritage Area – Courtesy Haas & Lovejoy

Carbon County Commissioners weigh creating national heritage area.

At last week’s board meeting, Commissioner Travis Moore said Vernon Lovejoy, of Hass and Lovejoy Protected Area Advisors, presented a proposal to create a federally recognized national historic area in Carbon County. Commissioner Moore said the idea of the project, called Pathways in the West, is to bring more visitors to the area.

Dr. Glenn Haas works with Lovejoy and is assisting with the project. He explained why the area is perfect for a nationally designated heritage site.

Commissioner Moore said if the county received federal approval for the historic area, a board of directors would be created to oversee the project. Dr. Haas explained that even though the federal government controls the national parks program, the board of directors would consist of locally elected individuals. He said no one would lose autonomy over their land.

Commissioner Moore said one aspect of Lovejoy’s presentation really changed his perception of the project. He said Lovejoy showed him how having a nationally recognized area could increase visitation ten-fold.

Commissioner Moore asked for a letter of support from his fellow commissioners for the Pathways in the West National Heritage Area. He said nothing is set in stone, but with tourism being so important to the county, it would be wise to investigate something with the potential of bringing in so many visitors.

Commission Chairwoman Sue Jones asked Moore if this was a new idea. Commissioner Moore said it has been explored back in the late 1980’s. He said the idea had local endorsement, but didn’t advance through the federal government. Moore said now seemed like the time to revisit the project.

In his presentation, Lovejoy showed the borders of the national heritage area running north to Casper and south to just below Rawlins. Moore said because the project is still in the early phase, adding or subtracting towns would be a simple matter.

Commissioner John Espy said Carbon County offers a one-of-a-kind variety of activities and industries in Wyoming. He said he was concerned the federal designation would shackle the land into a single use.

Chairwoman Jones asked Commissioner Moore to include the board’s concerns about federal overreach in his letter of support.  Dr. Haas explained what happens next.

Dr. Haas said certain pitfalls will need to be addressed if the project comes to fruition. He said an unexpected influx of visitors would bring its own set of problems that would need to be addressed.

President Ronald Regan signed the law allowing the creation of national heritage areas in 1984. As of the reporting of this story, 62 federally recognized areas exist in 36 states, but the Pathways in the West National Heritage Area would be the first in Wyoming.

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