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Wyoming News Briefs June 12

Wyoming state parks report record number of visitors

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A record number of visitors came to Wyoming state parks in April and May, and parks officials expect the high turnout to continue throughout the summer.

In April and May, when many public spaces were closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Wyoming’s state parks drew more than 575,000 visitors – a roughly 160% increase over the five-year average of 225,000. Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Deputy Director Nick Neylon called the numbers “stunning.”

“We knew from talking to our park superintendents that we were busier than in an average comparative year, but we didn’t expect it to be that high,” Neylon said Thursday.

The parks were closed to camping from March 30 through May 15, so the majority of visitors were people using the parks for day-use activities such as fishing, boating, hiking, biking and other outdoors recreation opportunities. Neylon said the day-use rates vary by location, but state parks like Curt Gowdy and Glendo tend to get more out-of-state visitors.

“Based on anecdotal evidence, we were getting a lot of folks from out of state for day use, as well, especially in the southeastern corner,” Neylon added.

Since reopening camping for state residents, Wyoming’s State Parks weekend occupancy rates have ranged from 89% to 98%, levels considered exceptionally high for this time of year.

Looking ahead, Neylon said parks officials are preparing for more activity throughout the summer, with many reservations already in place.


Fifth fentanyl-related death reported in Campbell County

GILLETTE (WNE) — Fentanyl had a part in yet another death in Campbell County.

Gillette resident Matt Johnson, 37, died of an accidental overdose on May 11.

Campbell County Coroner Paul Wallem said Johnson was found in an apartment in the 1600 block of West Warlow Drive. Johnson was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A forensic pathologist said the official cause of death was polypharmacy — meaning the simultaneous use of multiple drugs — and alcohol intoxication.

There was a mixture of alcohol, fentanyl and alprazolam, better known as Xanax, in Johnson’s system, Wallem said.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is primarily prescribed to manage severe pain, such as with cancer and end-of-life care. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is sold as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays or made into pills. It is often mixed with other drugs, sometimes unbeknownst to the user.

Fentanyl is showing up around the state in the form of fake oxycodone pills.

It is Gillette’s fifth fentanyl-related death since December, and the first since February.

Wallem said there is another death he suspects of being related to fentanyl, but he’s waiting on the toxicology report to come back. He expects to get the results next week.


Big Piney teen killed in rollover

PINEDALE (WNE) — Tristin Peden, 19, of Big Piney, died Tuesday when the pickup he was driving rolled multiple times, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Peden was heading east on County Road 134, Calpet Road, in Sublette County when the crash occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Peden was driving a 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup at a high speed when it exited the road to the left, according to Wyoming Highway Patrol. He then turned the pickup hard back to the right, where it left the road. Peden turned back in the other direction, which caused the truck to roll multiple times, the report said. The Highway Patrol is investigating speed, driver inattention and cell phone use as possible contributing factors to the crash. Peden was not wearing a seat belt, according to the Highway Patrol.

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