Construction work to rehabilitate the Old Pass Road pathway is scheduled to begin next week.
Teton County commissioners officially signed an agreement committing $200,000 in public funds toward the project. The remaining $400,000 cost for the project will be raised by Jim Verdone and his group Team JH in collaboration with Friends of Pathways.
“This is really an incredible opportunity for donors to leverage their dollars,” Verdone said. “Every dollar they contribute, the county will kick in a dollar, and that’ll get this project done.”
The Old Pass Road was built in 1913 as a wagon road and then upgraded to the main highway over Teton Pass, connecting Jackson Hole to the Victor, Idaho, railroad.
After being replaced in 1968 by Highway 22, the Old Pass Road fell into disrepair, and over the ensuing decades the pavement eroded and became riddled with potholes and encroaching vegetation.
The 3.5-mile-long pathway offers a unique amenity as a paved trail within the Bridger-Teton National Forest, forest recreation program manager Linda Merigliano said.
“There aren’t really paved trails that are closed to motorized use on the forest,” Merigliano said.
The Old Pass Road is popular for affording access to the scenic destination of Crater Lake, and also is valued as a bicyclist’s alternative to busy Highway 22 and as a historic resource, she said.
When Silver Star Communications laid fiber-optic cable along the roadway in 2013, Verdone worked with the company and the U.S. Forest Service to place a pavement overlay on about one-third of the path that runs from Trail Creek to a parking lot near the summit of the pass.
Verdone has spent the intervening years voluntarily patching holes and cracks and spraying vegetation.
“Previous efforts have been like triage, paving the sections that needed it the most,” Verdone said.
Many trail users likely assume the Forest Service or local Parks and Recreation department plows and cares for the pathway, but in reality Verdone has taken on most of those responsibilities, Friends of Pathways Director Katharine Dowson said.
While the Forest Service contributes signage and trail ambassadors, it doesn’t have the money to keep up a paved trail, Merigliano said.
“The only way that the kind of facilities can continue to exist is through public and private partnerships,” Merigliano said.
Verdone said he needs to raise another $120,000 to hit the $200,000 match goal to pave the remaining two-thirds of the road.
Walkers and bikers should expect to encounter roadwork when Evans Construction begins paving, which is expected to start Sept. 3-5, Verdone said. Crews plan to start at the top and work their way down. If all goes as scheduled, part of the road will be paved this summer and the rest next June.
Interested donors can contribute to the project through Team JH's Old Pass Road Repair Project with Old Bill's, and through Friends of Pathways at FriendsOfPathways.org.
“It’s a much-loved, much-used pathway amenity in the county, and it really needs some help,” Dowson said. “This will be the biggest fix for the road to date.”
This article has been updated to clarify that donors can also contribute through Team JH for Old Bill's.