Posts Categorized / Projects

  • Apr 20, 2016
  • 0
News, Projects

Improving trail accessibility with roll over gates

The Northern Black Hills has a bit of history with above-ground cattle guards. In 1993, several of the devices were installed on the Fort Meade Recreation Area outside of Sturgis. Around the same time, several more were installed on the Bearlodge Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in Wyoming. In the intervening years, thirty or more of these “roll over gates” have been installed throughout the Northern Black Hills. They have proven themselves in the field, with reduced instances of walk-through gates being left open and cattle being let out, and to date, there have been no reports of stock being injured by them. They have also proven to be remarkably durable for simple timber structures made from nothing more than 2″x6″ dimensional treated lumber and nails or screws. Those first roll over gates installed in 1993 did not receive any maintenance until Public Lands Day in 2013, and while several of the “treads” were replaced, the devices were still fully functional. As a result of their simple construction, they are also easy to repair in the field — even deep in the back-country — with nothing more than basic hand tools.

Many times these devices are referred to as a THAD (pronounced Tee Head) by locals. The acronym is the subject of some debate, but typically Trail Head Access Device, or Trail Head Animal Deterrent, depending on which of the folks with a long memory happen to be telling the tale. The newest design is in three pieces, intended to make the construction, installation, and maintenance all that much easier. It is almost unbelievable that such a simple, easy to maintain device makes using local trails so much more enjoyable for cyclists, hikers, and runners. Those with grazing leases sing praise as well, they tend to spend much less time chasing down stray cattle after the devices are installed. Trail users simply don’t have to be concerned about closing a gate if they don’t have to open the gate in the first place.

It was a snowy Sunday afternoon in April of 2016, when a handful of volunteers gathered in Spearfish to construct the latest of these roll over gates. Of the seven gates constructed that afternoon, two are destined for the Lookout Mountain Park in Spearfish, to compliment the revamped trail system under construction there. The other five will be installed on the Centennial Trail #89 on the Mystic District. These roll overs will be installed alongside existing gates on the Centennial from Highway 385, just south of Pilot Knob, south past Pactola, over Samelius to near Mt. Rushmore. The Centennial Trail has, for a number of years, been passable without opening a single gate for dozens of miles to the north of Highway 386. From Pilot Knob, just north of Pactola Reservoir, to Sturgis, one can travel the entire length of the Centennial Trail between these points without opening a single gate. These new roll overs will be the first installed in the Southern Black Hills, as part of the Tatanka Mountain Bike Race Special Use Permit with the Black Hills National Forest.

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  • Dec 08, 2015
  • 0
News, Projects, Sturgis

We need your help connecting communities

Black Hills Trails is working hard to connect communities in the Northern Black Hills. A major step in this vision is right around the corner and we need your help to make it happen.

In addition to the many miles of trail we help maintain, Black Hills Trails and our volunteers have built about two miles of new trail each year, for the past three years. The progress has been slow and steady, but thanks to our resolve and the continual willingness of dedicated volunteers to show up and move dirt, the opportunity to do much more is at hand.

Black Hills Trails has recently entered into an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to build the 7th Cavalry Trail System on the Fort Meade Recreation Area east of Sturgis. Progress on this is already underway, but there are more than twenty miles of new trail to build in the near future.

IMG_3144The City of Sturgis has recently approved the development of new trails into the City Dams, or Davenport Dams, that will be integral to a much larger Deadman Mountain Trail Project that Black Hills Trails is working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to achieve.

A conservative estimate puts the costs associated with finishing these projects over the next several years at more than $75,000. These costs include an expansion of the supplies and equipment available to our volunteers, contract construction services for the work we will be unable to complete ourselves, and the materials necessary to add proper signage to this world class trail system when it is complete.

Black Hills Trails strongly believes these enhanced recreational opportunities will improve the health and happiness of area residents, and provide numerous future opportunities to benefit the local economy and our Black Hills way of life. By supporting these projects you are supporting the Black Hills Trails vision of connecting our communities.

One local donor believes strongly in this vision, and is willing to match, dollar for dollar, each and every donation made to Black Hills Trails up to 50% of our fundraising goal, or $37,500.

Donors Tom Herman, Keith Smit, and Mike Strain

Donations may be mailed to:
Black Hills Trails
P.O. Box 661
Sturgis, SD 57785

Alternate means of making donations are available on our website, at, or contact us by emailing Black Hills Trails maintains 501(c)(3) charity status with the IRS, your donation will be tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.


Your financial support in connecting Black Hills communities is greatly appreciated.


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  • Oct 14, 2015
  • 1
News, Projects, Sturgis

Sturgis Watershed & City Dams Access

Your rights to access public lands are at stake, we need your help!

Background – In the 1970’s the City of Sturgis purchased the domestic water distribution and storage infrastructure from the Jarvis Davenport heirs that was originally built in the early 1900’s. Due to EPA regulations the above ground water storage system AKA “City Dams” was abandoned as a source of drinking water for the City of Sturgis. For the last 30 years the only persons utilizing the City Dam property have been recreational in nature through executive privilege or outright trespass. No public access to this public land has been allowed.

The 501(c)(3) not for profit Black Hills Trails has proposed including the City Dam property in a stacked loop multiple option non-motorized trail system that is directly accessible from several trailheads within the Sturgis City limits and several trailheads located on BLM and US Forest Service property. This system would encompass the Fort Meade Recreation Area managed by the BLM, City of Sturgis property adjacent to the Bear Butte Cemetery, the Barry Stadium, and the City Dams, along with USFS property on Deadman Mountain, and along Alkali Creek. When completed, recreational users will have access to loops of length from only a couple miles to 50 miles, or more, all starting and finishing in the city limits of Sturgis. Additionally, new water born recreation never before open to the public will be made available in addition to many possible historic interpretative possibilities.

Progress to date includes:

  • New trail from the Lions Club Park to the BLM Fort Meade Recreation Area.
  • Environmental Assessment completion and start of construction on 27 miles of the marked and mapped 7th Calvary trail system on the Fort Meade Recreation Area.
  • A $250,000 Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to the City of Sturgis for the construction of a 3 mile handicap accessible loop around the south side of the Fort Meade VA Hospital.
  • Designation of three trailheads (Lions Club, Old Stone Road, Deadman) within the Sturgis City Limits.

The Sturgis Park Board at their September 15th meeting unanimously approved a recommendation to the Sturgis City Council that the City Dams be open as soon as possible to the public providing a “minimalist wilderness-like experience for hikers, horse riders, and mountain bikes with primitive overnight camping”. Safety of the public using the area was discussed by the Park Board and the group indicated the South Dakota liability umbrella that protects the city from liability at parks, sports fields, and activities in the downtown area would apply. The Park Board also indicated that conditions at the City Dams were consistent with those at other city and federal managed reservoirs locally and did not see any liability concerns that would affect public access to the site. Private property owners in the vicinity of the cites holdings would not be affected as all routes are on City, USFS, and BLM property.

All trail construction will be funded through grants and donations to Black Hills Trails and with volunteer labor wherever possible. City of Sturgis budgetary impact would be minimal to non-existent.

WE NEED YOUR HELP – Black Hills Trails requests your attendance at the Sturgis City Council meeting on the evening of Monday, October 19 at 6:30pm, in the Commissioners’ Room of the Erskine Building, 1300 Sherman Street, Sturgis. Please be present to show your support for your right to access this public land. If you are unable to attend, please relay your support to your Sturgis councilperson or the Mayor.

Mayor & Council Contact Information:



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  • Oct 06, 2015
  • 0
News, Projects, Sturgis

Sturgis Trail Project Reaches Significant Milestone

For Immediate Release                                                                         October 6, 2015

Sturgis Trail Project Reaches Significant Milestone
Funding secured for three mile accessible trail loop around Fort Meade

(Sturgis, SD) – The City of Sturgis has secured $250,000 in funding through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) to construct a three mile trail around the Fort Meade Veterans Administration Hospital (VA). The trail will be handicapped accessible and will tie into key existing facilities and points of interest.

The new trail will enrich the experience of hospital guests and create a new recreation opportunity for VA staff and area residents by connecting the Fort Meade Trailhead including the Fort Meade Recreation Area Trail System and Centennial Trail. The new trail will also link the Sturgis Bike Path, Barry Stadium, and Fort Meade Museum.

The Bureau of Land Management, VA, the City of Sturgis, Sturgis Parks Department, and area non-profit Black Hills Trails have been collaborating on the development of an extensive stacked loop recreational trail system in and around the City of Sturgis since 2013. This new accessible loop trail is a significant milestone in that collaboration.

Future goals of this group initiative include connecting these trails with proposed trail systems on Deadman Mountain and in the Sturgis Watershed, and ultimately to connect area communities.

To get involved please subscribe to the Black Hills Trails email list on Future news and opportunities to collaborate and volunteer will be announced on this website, as available.


Bureau of Land Management
Ryan Larson
(605) 892-7000

City of Sturgis
Ann Bertolotto
(605) 347-4422, ext 206

South Dakota Game Fish & Parks
Recreational Trails Program
Randy Kittle
(605) 773-3391

Black Hills Trails

More details from South Dakota Game Fish & Parks


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  • Apr 22, 2015
  • 0
Projects, Sturgis

Public meeting! New trail network coming to the City of Riders!

Black Hills Trails Members have worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for more than 20 years to maintain and enhance the user established Fort Meade Recreation Area trails in Sturgis. The Fort Meade Recreation Area provides a back-country setting immediately accessible from town and has long been enjoyed by those residents and visitors who are fortunate enough to know about the scenery and diversity of recreation contained within its borders.

The blood, sweat and tears of many volunteers is now paying dividends as the BLM adopts a proposal championed by Black Hills Trails to significantly improve Fort Meade Recreation Area trails and turn them into an official trail network. This proposal has now entered a public comment period, one of the final hurdles before Black Hills Trails can put boots on the ground and build more world-class trails.

Black Hills Trails and the Bureau of Land Management would like to invite everyone with an interest in this project to a public meeting at the Alkali Creek Campground/Trailhead from 4:30 to 6:30 PM on Thursday, April 30. Attendees will learn more about the proposed changes and be given the opportunity to provide feedback, as well as learn how to become more involved.

To get to the Alkali Creek Campground, take I-90 Exit 34 (by the National Cemetery) then travel north on the BLM road for about 1/4 mile to the campground which is identified by signage.

Black Hills Trails invites you to attend, even if you have no comments, as a form of showing support for the importance and timely implementation of this project. Help us fulfill our continuing mission of connecting communities with trail!



More details:

BLM Page:

PDF Maps:

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  • Oct 07, 2014
  • 0
News, Sturgis, Volunteering

Update, Appreciation and Progress


In 2013 the City of Sturgis approved the donation of funds to our organization to purchase trail equipment that would help to develop a new trail on City property-The Lions Club Park Trail.

Formal trail building began last September and was completed in the spring of 2014.

Labor of Love

Well over 600 volunteer hours  went into developing this first mile of trail. Based on Independent Sector Organizations hourly value of a South Dakota volunteer, that is more than $11,000 worth of community commitment!

Additionally, a few community members donated money to help the organization cover its 2014 insurance cost. Dr Tom Herman, Keith Smit, and Mike Strain, Thanks! Black Hills Trails would be unable to continue in this mission without support like yours.

Pictured from left: Dr Tom Herman, Keith Smit, Kevin Forrester (Black Hills Trails) and Mike Strain

Enjoying The Fruits…

Two community events have already been held on the trail: The Sturgis Volksmarch (organized by Sturgis Area Chamber), and Brandon’s Memorial Malibu Run (organized by Taylar Applegate and Delzer family)

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Sturgis Volksmarch

Brandon’s Memorial Malibu Run.

“Save This Date” Photo Session on New Trail

First Trail Build Day

The First Fall trail Build day of 2014 was held September 27th. Fourteen volunteers showed up to help work on the Lions Club park trail. Much needed trail touch ups were taken care of, stumps and rocks removed and climbing turns refined. In addition, 300 feet of new trail was built. Black Hills Trails provided the tools and instruction, Sturgis Coffee Company provided coffee, Angie Ondriezek provided cookies.

Here is a  short video/time lapse of the 9-27 build day.

New Milestone! Developing Trail on Fort Meade Recreation Area

Previously our organization submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) who manages the Fort Meade Recreation Area adjacent to Sturgis to rebuild one of the existing trails on their property. This trail, currently called “The Grind”, was damaged due to logging operations in 2014. Wednesday, October 8th, the Bureau of Land Management will officially approve our organizations involvement in developing this new trail. This will be done by signing a Volunteer agreement at the BLM headquarters in Belle Fourche.

The Lions Club park trail directly connects to this new “Grind” trail and the trails in conjunction will provide access between the Centennial Trail, the City of Sturgis and the Fort Meade Trail Head.

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  • Sep 30, 2013
  • 0
News, Projects, Sturgis, Volunteering, Whitewood

Project Status Update

Part of the mission Black Hills Trails continues to pursue is connecting our local communities to each other and connecting our communities to points of interest with beautiful ribbons of trail. A great deal of progress was made toward that goal last weekend with two successful volunteer trail build days.

A small volunteer crew turned out in Oak Park in Whitewood on Sunday morning and was able to build the final remaining segment of trail forming a loop out of and back into the park. The only projects remaining before the main loop of the trail in Whitewood can be considered complete is to build one final corner and construct a small bridge. Calling this project complete in the very near future will be a major milestone for the residents of this small Black Hills town!

On Saturday morning in Sturgis, 17 volunteers labored over 75 hours combined to finish almost 1000 feet of new trail. This trail will eventually stretch southeast from Lions Club Park and the City Cemetery onto the Fort Meade Recreation area and access existing trails there. The next scheduled volunteer build day for the Lions trail in Sturgis is Saturday, October 12 with an 8:30 AM start time.

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