Wyoming County Ponders Creating Parks Department

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January 26, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Natrona County commissioners in central Wyoming will consider creating a parks department independent from the road and bridge department.

The departments were separate until the mid-1990s, and Road and Bridge Superintendent Mike Haigler inherited those jobs plus fire warden, he told commissioners during their work session on Tuesday (Jan. 24).

The Casper Tribune reported that the department supplies the equipment and operators for construction, maintenance and other jobs at Rotary Park and the Bridle Trail; the 18-mile Nordic ski trail, Beartrap Meadow and campgrounds on Casper Mountain; and the county's obligations for campgrounds, restrooms, docks and other amenities at the Pathfinder, Alcova and Gray Reef reservoirs owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, he said.

Having a separate department – overseen by a state-mandated county parks board – would sharpen the focus on the recreation areas in the state's second most populous county.

The commissioners looked at the idea of a new parks department from several points of view.

Commissioner Terry Wingerter said Gov. Matt Mead's proposed budget tightening could mean less money for the counties. "Is this the right time to start a new department?"

Commission Chairman Ed Opella said properly done parks department would require a separate director and assistant director, as well as someone to handle the paperwork.

Commissioner Rob Hendry saw an advantage of a separate parks department because it would enable the road and bridge department to concentrate on the county's nearly 800 miles of county-designated roads, he said.

"You have better parks and you have better roads if you concentrate on just one thing," Hendry said.

Commissioner Bill McDowell said he didn't see the need for a new parks department.

"I don't want to build another empire with a small independent parks department with all their own equipment duplicating the services and equipment we have at road and bridge," McDowell said. "It doesn't make sense."

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