Game and Fish planning new office in Cody

Set to be built on commissioner’s property

Posted 8/6/19

Having outgrown its current quarters, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to leave its regional office south of Cody and build a new one on the north side of the city.

The department is …

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Game and Fish planning new office in Cody

Set to be built on commissioner’s property


Having outgrown its current quarters, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to leave its regional office south of Cody and build a new one on the north side of the city.

The department is purchasing a nearly 22-acre parcel of land along Wyo. Highway 120, not far from the highway’s intersection with Road 2AB. Under a deal approved by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on July 19, the state will buy the property from Park County Commissioner Joe Tilden for $350,000.

However, ground won’t be broken until the spring of 2021 at the earliest, said Cody Regional Wildlife Supervisor Dan Smith.

“We’re still a ways out and it’s still very tentative at this time,” Smith said Thursday.

The Game and Fish has yet to decide on a design for the new office — it hopes to seek bids from designers in the coming months — and the total budget has yet to be determined, he said.

“What we’re going to look at it is best use of space and best use of sportsmen’s dollars,” Smith said, adding, “We want to be good stewards of that money.”

The Cody Regional office serves as the department’s headquarters in the Big Horn Basin. The Game and Fish’s current office also sits on Wyo. 120, but south of Cody on Park County-owned land. It was built in 1979, with the thought that the office would house nine people, the department says. Through some reconfigurations and the addition of a couple modular buildings, the facility now houses 24 office spaces, but the Game and Fish has 26 full-time and five to 10 temporary employees working there.

“This office no longer has the capacity to address the needs of employees or the public we serve,” Dee Dee Hawk, chief of the Game and Fish’s services division, wrote in a memo to the Game and Fish Commission.

Smith specifically mentioned the small public reception area in the front of the building.

When the Game and Fish is busy — such as when hunters are registering bear baiting sites or purchasing leftover licenses — “people literally have to line up out the door to stand in line,” he said. Further, the basement conference room is not ADA-compliant. That forces the department to hold most of its meetings at other locations.

In contrast, the new building is expected to include a larger lobby, handicap-accessible conference space for the public, a break room, storage rooms, a wet lab, restrooms and a four-bay shop.

It will also have space for about 30 full-time workers — allowing for some future growth in Cody — plus five to 10 temporary employees.

“We’re planning for 20-plus years into the future of the Cody Regional office,” Smith said.

He sees advantages from the new location north of Cody, ranging from safer access from the highway to more parking space for folks towing trailers or boats. Smith also mentioned the department’s desire to have its office on property it owns; the current building sits on land it’s leased (for free) from the Park County government.

The Game and Fish says it looked at several other possibilities before choosing Tilden’s property.

“The department conducted a thorough analysis of all options available, including demolition of the current building and building on site, buying an existing building at a different location, and building off-site on a new property,” Hawk wrote in the memo. She said the agency concluded that building at a new location “is the best option for the department and the public financially and operationally.”

Although the design has yet to be finalized, Game and Fish representatives say the plan is for the buildings “to blend into the natural surroundings and to be aesthetically appealing.” The facility is expected to include at least 20,000 square feet of office space with an attached 7,500 square foot, two-story shop and a 5,000 square foot outbuilding.

County commissioners have cleared the way for the Game and Fish to build at the new site. In June, they unanimously approved Tilden’s plans to split his 50.79-acre property into three different lots, creating the Dry Creek Minor Subdivision. After selling the 21.71-acre parcel to the Game and Fish, Tilden said he’ll keep and continue to live on another 20.33-acre parcel while selling the third, 8.79-acre lot as a home site.

On July 16, county commissioners also approved a special use permit to allow the Game and Fish to build its regional office in the subdivision; special permission was needed for the “major community use” because the facilities are going to be larger than 5,000 square feet in size.

Commissioners Tilden and Jake Fulkerson — an appraiser whose done some work for the Game and Fish on the project — both recused themselves from the votes on the subdivision and the permit. Commissioners Lee Livingston, Dossie Overfield and Lloyd Thiel voted unanimously to approve both items — though not without giving Tilden a bit of a hard time.

“Come on, there’s got to be something,” Livingston joked when it appeared there were no issues with Tilden’s subdivision.

After the vote, Tilden offered that, “Sitting on this side of that aisle [in the audience] is not an easy process.”

No members of the general public raised any specific concerns about the project at the two county commission meetings.

One neighboring landowner, a limited liability company called Trail Creek Partners, sent a letter to the Game and Fish Commission supporting the department’s plans to acquire the property.

Writing on the LLC’s behalf, attorney Colin Simpson encouraged the department to develop the property “in an environmentally conscious manner that incorporates design elements that are aesthetically consistent with the natural features of the area and that contribute to the overall character of Cody.” Simpson also asked if the department could plant some more trees along its border with the site before concluding that, “We look forward to the agency’s continued growth and future success.”

As for the Game and Fish’s current office, its fate has yet to be determined. However, Smith said the most likely scenario is that the building will be turned over to the county.