Southwest Wyoming Off-Road Trails Brings Recreational Opportunities and Economic Benefits to Evanston

Southwest Wyoming Off-Road Trails Brings Recreational Opportunities and Economic Benefits to Evanston Main Photo

19 Jun 2024


The  Evanston Economic Development Organization (EDO) encourages residents to get involved in economic development if they want to make their vision of Uinta County a reality. Business owners, neighbors, and concerned citizens can have a voice in the future of Evanston and can suggest projects that will make this region better.

Mark Tesoro, Founder of Southwest Wyoming Off-Road Trails (SWOT) is a perfect success story of what happens when residents follow their passions. He attended an economic development meeting in 2019 to pitch his off-road trail idea and has since organized a non-profit that benefits the region with the potential to expand to the entire state.

SWOT’s vision is to connect trails across Southwest Wyoming and keep them accessible for off-road motor vehicles. Residents and visitors could travel to national forests, BLM and public lands, historic sites, and landmarks on an accessible route. Instead of traveling by car through Wyoming, tourists could explore the state’s natural wonders up close on an ATV or side-by-side.

Learn more about SWOT and how Tesoro’s economic development pitch ballooned into a major life project.      

How SWOT Works

Tesoro’s plan is to balance the use of public lands and existing roads with community engagement to support riders of ATVs and other off-road vehicles. Tourists to Southwest Wyoming will be able to leave Evanston and travel through some of the most picturesque acreage in the United States. They can either pack a tent and camp in their desired spot or pull into nearby towns to enjoy the local hotels, restaurants, and nightlife.

“Our goal is to tie all of Southwest Wyoming through a series of roads,” says Tesoro. “These are connector roads that get people to what they want to see. Connect the communities. Connect the forests. Connect the deserts. And connect the historic sites.”

Wyoming towns that might not have easy interstate access would benefit from an increase in tourism. Evanston would benefit from its strategic location across the border from Utah. SWOT could become a program that brings side-by-side and ATV enthusiasts from across the country to Southwest Wyoming.

“We have so much historical information and sites,” says Tesoro. “A lot of people who are riding these machines in other states look for the resources we have in Wyoming. Museums, forts, visitor centers, historic events. We have to get the word out about everything Wyoming has to offer.” 

How SWOT Came to Be

SWOT started with a pitch during an economic development meeting, but that was just the first start in its journey. In the five years since, Tesoro has worked with the Wyoming State Parks service, the state legislature, countless town and county governments, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), and local law enforcement to get every party on board with his plan. He has lobbied elected officials and pushed multiple bills through both the state house and senate and has learned in great (and at times painful) detail how government processes works.

“Mark Tesoro is inexhaustible,” says Rocco O'Neill, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Evanston. “He has met every hurdle head-on as he expands the SWOT project and you can easily see how passionate he is about Southwest Wyoming. He knows this project will benefit the region economically while boosting Evanston’s profile as a tourist destination.”  

Tesoro is currently working with the State Trails Office and WYDOT to ensure riders are safe regardless of whether they are on a rocky trail or street road. Riders can download the SWOT map to see which roads are currently available to explore.  

“The beauty of what we are trying to put together is instead of private lands, we use BLM and public lands to make these connections possible,” says Tesoro. “There are a lot of dirt roads in the state, so we are using existing resources.”

He also assures local municipalities that the motorized vehicles will not be a nuisance. Various towns and counties need to pass ordinances approving the use of ATVs and side-by-sides on city streets. Tesoro focuses on the economic benefits of these visitors and only moves forward when local mayors and city councils approve his plans. 

How You Can Support SWOT

SWOT is not Tesoro’s full-time job. It is a passion project that he works on when he’s not managing a sporting goods store or serving on the Wyoming Office of Tourism board. SWOT could benefit from Evanston residents and business owners who are willing to donate their time and efforts to make this project happen.

“We are limited in our bandwidth for our board and organization,” says Tesoro. “This is something I have taken on as a non-profit and some of the travel to other towns is done out of my own pocket.”

Anyone in the Evanston community can get involved in SWOT, whether that means donating skills and resources or participating in Poker Run fundraisers where you ride through Bridger Valley and into the forest and back. In 2023, 250 people attended the event on more than 100 machines.  

“I can’t complain because we have had so much support,” says Tesoro. “Even though SWOT is nearly five years old, this project is still in its infancy.”  

SWOT Supports Evanston’s Quality of Life and Tourist Economy

SWOT benefits both residents who love exploring the natural wonders of Evanston along with business owners involved in the hospitality and tourism industries. As this project grows, it will leave a positive mark on Southwest Wyoming and elevate the profile of the region. Follow for other opportunities to grow Evanston and Uinta County as a whole.