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George S. Mickelson Trail opens in South Dakota

The trail follows the Deadwood to Edgemont rail line the entire length of the Black Hills.

Map of South Dakota

Bikers, hikers and horseback riders have a new section of trail to explore along South Dakota's George S. Mickelson Trail.

About 50 people attended a preview ride Wednesday, Oct. 29, along the trail's new Hill City to south of Mystic section. The section opened in early November, creating 42 continuous miles of trail between Pringle and Hill City. Also completed is a 20-mile section between Deadwood and Dumont.

State Trails Coordinator Dan Simon said the entire 110-mile trail will be completed sometime next fall. The trail follows South Dakota s historic Burlington Northern Deadwood to Edgemont rail line and spans the entire length of the Black Hills.

The trail's most obvious attraction is its recreational value, Simon said. But several interpteive exhibits along the trail will give bikers, hikers and horseback riders a deeper appreciation for the area's historic background. This area truly has a colorful past.

In addition to the interpretive displays, Simon said the City of Deadwood is planning to install a period locomotive near the community's trailhead. Two railroad tunnels along the new Hill City section will also add intrigue to the trail.

The tunnels were restored by the U.S. Forest Service and are located about one mile south of Mystic, Simon explained. The first tunnel is about 228 feet long and the second is 274 feet long and is entirely lined with timber suports. It's something you definitely do not see every day.

The idea to build a recreation trail between Deadwood and Edgemont began in 1983, when the Burlington Northern Railroad abandoned its Black Hills line. A group of local residents who recognized the line s historic value and recreational potential quickly adopted the project and South Dakota's first rails to trails conversion project was under way.

The trail's construction has relied heavily upon federal transportation grants and private donations. The South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation, in cooperation with Friends of the George S. Mickelson Trail, has been spearheading the fund-raising efforts through special events and projects.

The most important tool for raising funds has been the Bridge Builder Program. Simply put, this program allows individuals or businesses to adopt a bridge by funding its construction. In return, each bridge that is adopted will bear a brass plaque with the contributors name or names emblazoned in black.

To date, 72 of the trail's 97 bridges have been adopted through this program. Bridges cost between $3,000 and $21,000 depending upon length. Susan Edwards, executive director of the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, said anyone interested in adopting one or more of the remaining bridges should contact her office at (605) 773-4503. Electronic mail inquiries may be sent to: susane@gfp.state.sd.us.

November 2000

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