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Pinedale Online > News > June 2008 > Proposal for Half Moon Lake Resort and Burnt Lake Camp

Half Moon Lake Resort. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
Half Moon Lake Resort
Half Moon Lake Resort, marina and cabins, as seen from the lake. Pinedale Online file photo.

Cabin on the mountain. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
Cabin on the mountain
The Half Moon Lake Resort cabins are scattered in the aspens on the mountain behind the resort. Pinedale Online file photo.
Proposal for Half Moon Lake Resort and Burnt Lake Camp
Educational facility through Western Wyoming Community College and Sublette BOCES; Price tag $6 Million
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
June 2, 2008

On Friday, May 30th, the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Community Conversation Luncheon at Rendezvous Pointe. Special guest speaker was Mike Kaul giving an update on the status of a proposal for the future of Half Moon Lake Resort and the Burnt Lake recreation site.

Mike Kaul is one of a group of area residents who have a vision to combine the two sites into an educational outdoor facility that focuses on the abundant natural resources of the area focusing on outdoor recreation and the nearby energy resources. These two industries are the #1 and #2 economic industries in the State of Wyoming.

They propose a facility called “Half Moon Lake Resort/Burnt Lake Educational Project.”

Half Moon Lake Resort is the only commercial facility located on Half Moon Lake, operating under a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. It operated for many years, most recently under the ownership of Vic McMurry who did extensive remodeling and upgrading of the facility. It finally closed down a couple of years ago and has been sitting idle. Skinner Brothers Wilderness Camp operated on the Burnt Lake site for many years ultimately being sold by the brothers when they retired and bought by Vic McMurry who incorporated into his Half Moon Lake Resort outfitter operations.

The people who have been working to put this proposal for the past couple of years are Mike Kaul (Two Rivers Emporium in Pinedale, also owned by Vic McMurry), Ann Noble (Chambers House Bed & Breakfast in Pinedale and on the Western Wyoming Community College Commission), Courtney Skinner (Skinner Brothers Wilderness Camps) and Dr. Tex Boggs (President of Western Wyoming Community College). They have been considering this proposal and working on it for a couple of years.

The concept would be to develop educational, performance-oriented training programs related to outdoor recreation, natural resources management and tourism. Programs and courses would be developed that relate to outdoor recreation management, culinary cooking arts, guest ranch and resort management and natural resources. The curriculum would provide “hands-on” training and include classes in business, accounting, personnel management, marketing, natural and environmental science, and government regulatory requirements. Students and faculty would run the operations. Students who complete the program would receive an Associate Degree in recreation resource management.

Natural and environmental science programs and classes would be made available to local and regional high school and college students in the local communities. Emphasis would be placed on studying the natural environment in a pristine venue. “The juxtaposition of the natural science laboratory provided by the Wind River Mountains and the Bridger Wilderness with the natural energy resource laboratory provided by the Pinedale Anticline, offer an extraordinary opportunity for environmental studies,” states a media release handed out at the luncheon.

The Burnt Lake facility would be operated for summer seasonal use only. Most of the buildings related to the Skinner Brothers Wilderness Camp have been removed in order to reclaim the site. Facilities there would be minimal and involve cabins on skids and a classroom on skids so they can be easily moved and removed.

The Half Moon Lake Resort facility currently includes a completely renovated restaurant area, cabins and marina. This facility is proposed to be operated year-round. Modifications to the existing facility would be minor, perhaps bringing in some more skid cabins and classrooms. The goal would be to have as minimal a “footprint” as possible on the land. Operations from there would be lodging, back-country trips, and culinary arts training, among others.

The facility’s proximity to Half Moon Lake, the Bridger Wilderness and the Pinedale area natural gas fields make it strategically located for this kind of an outdoor program. It is also located close to White Pine Ski Area and Resort, Pinedale, Fremont Lake, and regionally to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

The facilities would be open to the public for recreational activities in accordance with the national forest multiple-use policy. Students and faculty would become the concessionaires at the sites. Local service businesses would be able to use the school’s resources for training and recruiting employees.

Once the program is up and running it will be made available to students from other institutions in the state and throughout the country. It could also be used by corporations and other organizations for on-site programs. In time, it is hoped the facilities would produce some revenue from their activities.

“This is a big opportunity,” Kaul said. Everyone he has talked to is very enthusiastic about this project. This program was the first formal public announcement of the proposal. Now they are looking to raise public awareness and get feedback from people on the proposal, as well as to hear anything anyone who can think of reasons why this project wouldn’t be a good idea.

What will it cost? Funding strategies: About $6 million minimum to acquire the two facilities and start it. They hope to raise money from a broad spectrum of sources including grants, private donors, energy companies, organizations, matching funds sources from the state and educational institutions. Sublette BOCES has a mill levy that can be used to help support the program. Organizers hope to also build an endowment that would help fund the operating costs of the facilities. Part of the use plans would also include a commercial component such as renting out the cabins for executive retreats, in which the students would help supply the “services” (cooking meals, cleaning rooms, administer bookings, etc) as part of their hands-on training.

Who would run it and be the permittees? Western Wyoming Community College in conjunction with Sublette BOCES as an outdoor education facility. There are no plans to create a separate foundation or organization to run the facility. Kaul emphasized they want to keep “local control” of the operations as a primary operating and management objective.

Timeline: When does the money have to be raised? By the end of this calendar year, 2008. “There is a time limit on this,” Kaul said. “These facilities can’t stay the way they are. There is a sense of urgency.”

What are organizers looking for? At this stage, they are seeking public input on the proposal. They want to hear if people are in support of it, ideas for how the facilities can be used, and anyone interested in helping them meet their financial goals. They are also looking for the “900 pound gorilla”, any kind of red flags that people can think of that might kill the project or be reasons why it is not a good idea to do.

Who to contact for more information: Mike Kaul, 307-367-4131,

Related Links
  • - Western Wyoming Community College
  • - Sublette BOCES
  • - Skinner Brothers
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