Black Hills Trails doesn’t exist just to build and maintain trails, but to connect communities with each other. Connecting communities means connecting people, and forming long-lasting relationships. Our efforts were rewarded this year with the deepening and creation of two significant relationships, one with the Black Hills National Forest and the other with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. These two organizations manage the majority of recreational trails in the Black Hills area.
Relationships: Black Hills National Forest
Forest-Wide Volunteer Agreement
Black Hills Trails has entered a Forest-wide partnership with the Black Hills National Forest. This partnership doesn’t simply replace standing agreements, it expands and enhances the existing relationship between Black Hills Trails and the Black Hills National Forest. Similar to an agreement held by Black Hills Trails partner organization, Black Hills Back-Country Horsemen, the new agreement provides a framework for meeting each year with Forest Leadership to discuss and make plans for Forest-wide recreation priorities, including maintenance and development. The plans made under this new agreement will help Black Hills Trails and the Black Hills National Forest help each other to better meet the recreation needs of local communities than at any time in the past.
Relationships: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
Bear Butte Trail Maintenance
Black Hills Trails and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks began forging a relationship in 2017 that is already bearing fruit for the Black Hills community. The initial project undertaken as part of this coordinated trail and recreation effort was maintenance and minor reconstruction of the iconic Bear Butte Trail, located northeast of Sturgis at the northernmost terminus of the Centennial Trail #89. This trail, one of the most loved in the Black Hills, was significantly improved by Black Hills Trails volunteers and by Game, Fish and Parks staff this fall.
In 2017 Black Hills Trails began recognizing an individual for their significant contributions to trails in the Black Hills. The first-ever Trailblazer Award was presented to Ryan Larson of the Bureau of Land Management for his exceptional cooperation and coordination on the development and maintenance of the trail system on the Fort Meade Recreation Area. We could not think of any better recipient for the first presentation of this annual award. Ryan’s contributions to the trail causes go far beyond what is required of his position with the BLM.
To better manage the different efforts being undertaken by Black Hills Trails volunteers, and be able to better take advantage of new opportunities, Black Hills Trails re-organized into three Zones in early 2017.
Currently, most trail in the Northern Black Hills and all significant trail in the I-90 corridor is covered by a Black Hills Trails Zone. These Spearfish, Sturgis, and Rapid City Zones have consolidated the trail-related efforts of the existing organizations Northern Hills Trails and Black Hills Mountain Bike Association under a unified Black Hills Trails Banner. This consolidation helps bring together a significant pool of resources, expertise, and a unified voice that will result in more and faster progress on trail projects in the Black Hills in the future.
The leadership of Black Hills Trails evolved in 2017 to represent the new zone structure. Joining the Board of Directors were:
- Casey Bergstrom, representing the Spearfish Zone, cycling and hiking interests, and the cycling industry.
- Emily Wheeler, representing the Rapid City Zone, trail running interests and the outdoor event industry, and will act as liaison to the Black Hills Runners Club.
- Kent Jacobs, representing the Rapid City Zone, cycling and motorcycling interests, and acting as liaison to the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association.
These three new members join the existing Board:
- Tony Ortiz, representing the Sturgis Zone, general outdoor recreation interests, and liaison to the National Forest Advisory Board.
- Kevin Forrester, Founder, representing the Sturgis Zone, cycling and hiking interests, and liaison to the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council.
- Samuel Greear, Founder, Executive Director.
One seat representing the Spearfish Zone remains to be filled. The Black Hills Trails Board would like to extend our thanks to Geoff Gloceri, who enthusiastically represented the interests of the organization in the Spearfish area in 2017, but has recently relocated.
They say the proof is in the pudding, and Black Hills Trails could not be more proud of the results that can be seen on the ground today, results made possible by our dedicated volunteers and partners.
Projects: 7th Cavalry Trail System
2017 saw a number of small updates and improvements to the 7th Cavalry Trail System on the Fort Meade Recreation Area east of Sturgis, including the completion of on-trail signage. All of the numbered trails on the Recreation Area have been given names and improved maps of the area are under development. The Grillo tractor and attachments purchased in early 2016 were instrumental to the completion of this trail system entirely with volunteer labor. The terrain, soils, and trail design lent themselves to rapid construction with an extremely reasonable investment in terms of both volunteer time and capital. Capital expenditures on the 7th Cavalry Trail System total less than $30,000 to date (2014-2017), including the purchase of the Grillo tractor, making it a practically unheard-of return on investment for local Black Hills Trails donors.
Projects: Deadman Trailhead
The Deadman Trailhead, located on the southern end of Sturgis on the corner of Pineview Dr and Vanocker Canyon Rd, near Flex Fitness and just south of I-90 exit 32, was completed this fall. This public-use Trailhead, located on a City-owned lot, had the grade raised significantly with the addition of nearly 300 tons of fill capped with limestone and was recently paved to meet City ordinance. This improved trailhead will serve as a primary access point to the future Deadman Trail System and is open today.
This trailhead was made possible by the generosity of many Black Hills Trails donors, and local businesses who contributed materials and/or labor. Benefactors of this trailhead include the City of Sturgis, Meade County, First Interstate Bank, Pete Lien & Sons, Bruch Gravel, Black Hills Energy, Wheeler Lumber, and Sacrison Paving. Because of these incredible partnerships, investment by Black Hills Trails totaled only $15,000 for this permanent trailhead.
Projects: City Dams
The first trail into the Sturgis City Dams was completed and opened for public use. This trail, which will be incorporated into the future Deadman Trail System, is already seeing significant use by the community for hiking and access to the angling opportunities afforded by the Dams. Due to the adverse terrain construction of this trail was made possible with the assistance of a private contractor and was machine-built on a corridor identified by Black Hills Trails volunteers. After rough construction, the trail was finished by volunteers who helped set a new participation record with nearly 40 volunteers lending a hand on the public volunteer day held in June of 2017.
The second and third of four possible trails accessing the City Dams were constructed by a trail contractor this year, but require completion by volunteers in 2018. These trails were machine-built, similar to the first trail, as required by the steep and rocky terrain. Once finished, the second trail will connect to existing routes near Veteran Peak to the south of the Dams, and ultimately connect to the Centennial Trail #89 north of Elk Creek Trailhead. The third trail connects to Bulldog Rd (FS 139.1), and the Centennial Trail #89 at the southern base of Alkali Ridge.
The total investment to date in these three trails, including the contracted construction, is approximately $40,000. These trails were made possible by generous contributions from within Sturgis and other Northern-Hills communities, the Altria Group, and funds raised at a fundraiser held in Sturgis in April 2017.
Projects: Deadman Trail System
While the trails into the City Dams, located on property owned by the City of Sturgis, are the heart of the future Black Hills Trails proposed Deadman Trail System, this trail system also includes approximately 10 miles of trail surrounding the City-owned property on National Forest lands. The Black Hills National Forest and the City of Sturgis have entered into an agreement to complete the environmental and other analysis required to finish this trail system. While some questions of cost and time to completion remain, this process is already well underway.
Black Hills Trails continues to assist both the City of Sturgis and the Black Hills National Forest through this federally mandated process. Once the required analysis is complete, Black Hills Trails will be allowed to move ahead with construction of the remaining trail, which is anticipated to happen in 2018.
The expenses required to finish the Deadman Trail System, including the aforementioned analysis, as well as remaining trail construction, equipment, map development, and signage are estimated at $125,000 – $175,000 in 2018 and 2019.
Black Hills Trails continues to work on numerous other projects around the area, and assist partner organizations with their efforts. Just like in previous years, dozens of miles of existing trail were cleared of fallen timber or otherwise improved by our dedicated volunteers.
The Spearfish Zone of Black Hills Trails has continued progress on a number of on-going projects. Representatives are continuing to collaborate with the City of Spearfish on the Lookout Mountain Trail System to ensure it is able to meet diverse needs and is a valuable asset to the community. The Tinton Trail (also known as the Dakota Five-O Loop) continues to edges closer to official Forest System status, led by Black Hills Trails partner, the Ridge Riders of the Black Hills Mountain Bike Club. Black Hills Trails volunteers continue to assist with this effort on the ground.
Black Hills Trails and the Bureau of Land Management worked with Eagle Scout candidate Seth Edelen on his Eagle Scout project of designing and building a new trail. This successful project resulted in a new section of trail that helped make the first-ever youth-only mountain bike race in the Black Hills possible. The event drew nearly 140 elementary, middle, and high school riders and was an overwhelming success.
With the end finally in sight on the Sturgis-area projects, Black Hills Trails will be taking action in 2018 on future trail systems. Please stay tuned, as your help will absolutely be required!
Black Hills Trails would not be able to continue its mission of building community with trail and connecting our local communities without the continued involvement of amazing volunteers and donors. We would like to extend our deepest thanks to all those who contributed needed funds, labor, or support to the continuation of our mission in 2017.