(Natrona County, WY) – Though Hell’s Half Acre has been closed to the public since roughly 2005, the landmark to the west of Casper may soon be reopened. The Natrona County Parks Department and Visit Casper are seeking grants that would enable the land to be used publicly.
Encompassing roughly 320 acres, Hell’s Half Acre is a geologic oddity composed of deep ravines, caves, rock formations and hard-packed eroded earth. The landform was famously used as the location for the fictional planet of Klendathu in the 1997 Paul Verhoeven–directed movie “Starship Troopers.”
The land also holds historical significance, Brown said, as Native American tribes would use the ravines to drive bison to their death during hunts in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“Things were shut down over there and the fencing was put up because they didn’t have a caretaker,” Parks Director Michael Brown said of why the land was closed in the early 2000s. “I’ve thought for a while that it would be a good idea to open it up, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that. … With Visit Casper showing it and advertising it, I think it could be a good attraction for the county.”
Brown added that the closure of the roadside restaurant and the motel and campground on site were also likely contributing factors in the land being closed to the public.
With a grant from the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Department, Brown said he hopes to improve facilities like picnic shelters, adjust fencing throughout the area, install an outhouse, add historical signage throughout the park, grade the roads in and out of the area and more.
In total, Brown hopes to receive roughly $200,000 from the grant.
The grant application requires a letter of recommendation from the county, and at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, commission chairman Steve Freel said he would be willing to write a letter of support for the grant application process.
“I would gladly write a letter of support,” Freel said.
Commissioner Dave North also voiced support for the plan.
“I think that’s great; it’s been shut down for a long time,” North said. “This is something unique to the county. … I think this is something important that we do.”
In addition to the primary grant, Visit Casper business development coordinator Amanda Sewell said they will also seek grant funds from the Wyoming Office of Tourism and ARPA funds.
Sewell said she expects to hear back on whether the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Department grant application was approved in the coming quarter.
“This is just step one,” Sewell said. “We’re really excited, and we’ve already gotten two letters of support.”
“If we get the grant in a timely manner, I think we should expect to see the area reopened for public use by this time next year,” Brown added.