Cheyenne City Council sows seeds for potential state park at High Plains Arboretum

Aug. 26—CHEYENNE — A once-crucial research site for the U.S. Department of Agriculture could become a Wyoming historic site or park, with approval from several parts of state government.

The High Plains Arboretum, located west of F.E. Warren Air Force Base along Round Top Road and Missile Drive, was once an important site for agricultural research. The USDA used the site starting in 1928 to research what plants could be grown in the area.

"It was created to do research on developing plants and plant stock," said Ward 2 Councilor Dr. Mark Rinne. "(To look into what) can grow in our environment out here in the West, where it's semi-arid, high altitude, a lot of rain, a lot of wind."

At a Cheyenne City Council work session Friday afternoon, council members were briefed by people from Friends of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and staff from Wyoming State Parks on the proposed $14 million plan for the site.

"The historic trees ... are just part of the horticultural history of the site," said State Parks planning manager Carly-Ann Caruthers, who showed the councilors a picture of the property from its entryway on Round Top Road. "(It) ultimately has local, state, national and international significance."

Since the land is not officially annexed into Cheyenne, a memorandum of understanding between the city, county and state would be necessary if the project moves forward.

Even with full council approval, the Wyoming Legislature would still have to approve creation of the park, as well. State Parks Deputy Director Nick Neylon said a committee-sponsored bill will come before the Legislature in the 2025 general session.

Getting approval at the local level is just the first step.

"There are a couple legislators that are in favor of this state park," Rinne said. "They would like to get some action going, as well. ... This is pretty much going on the fast track. ... (State Parks) wanted to go out to the public with it fairly soon, and they wanted us to hear from them before they started looking for public information."

Many of the details of the project are still being worked out between local government, state parks and the Legislature. Randy Byers, who spoke on behalf of Friends of the Botanic Gardens, told the council there was potential for involvement from higher education institutions like the University of Wyoming and Laramie County Community College.

"I believe there's potential for quite a few stakeholders who can play an active role in this site," Byers said. "In developing it in a way, and using it in a way, that really has significant reach. ... The site is a jewel that is somewhat undiscovered, but has tremendous potential."

Byers also said the project could lead to the site being used for its original purpose again.

"It's also exciting that the opportunity may be there for the city to engage in the production of seedling trees," Byers said. "The city, through Urban Forestry and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, can make use of this site and put it back into production to produce tree seedlings that can be used throughout our community. ... You need to think of this, that piece of the site, as a living museum."

Nearly all council members attended the work session either in-person or over Zoom. Rinne, who organized the work session, asked for anyone from the council and public to raise any concerns with the idea before the council moved forward. Nobody verbally objected at the time.

"They're ready for where they need to go out for public input," Rinne said. "So, if there are any issues, any reservations on the behalf of council members, they need to hear it now. Otherwise, I'm assuming we'll ... start working on a resolution that can be introduced to council.

"It's something that we've always wanted to do, for years now. I appreciate all the work that you do. ... This fast track is moving way quicker than what we're normally used to doing."

Samir Knox is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's criminal justice and public safety reporter. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 307-633-3152. Follow him on Twitter at @bySamirKnox.