Mines students get grant to build mountain bike trail

South Dakota School of Mines photo: South Dakota Mines student volunteers work during the fall of 2019 on a mountain bike and hiking trail behind campus. The recent grant from South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks will allow for mechanized equipment for this type of trail building.

RAPID CITY – South Dakota Mines students who are designing and building a mountain bike trail on the grassland hills directly behind campus have been awarded a grant of $48,913 from the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Recreational Trails Program. 

“South Dakota Mines and the surrounding Black Hills have some world class mountain biking trails within 10 minutes of campus,” says Fernando Vazquez who recently graduated from Mines with a degree in metallurgical engineering. “This project will add more miles of trails to those already in the area.”

The project was first conceptualized about 12 years ago as the “Turbine Trail.” Its name refers to the wind turbine that is perched above campus. Emeritus professor of civil engineering, M.R. Hansen, Ph.D., was one of those behind the idea. “This promotes well-being and physical activity on campus. The American Society of Civil Engineering student chapter did a great deal of work on the original project and I’m happy to see the effort is continuing.” says Hansen. 

Jon Kellar, Ph.D., a professor of metallurgy and materials science carried the idea forward along with faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at South Dakota Mines. The first phase of the renewed effort involved a senior design project by a group of civil engineering students who did survey work. South Dakota Mines student volunteers then began work on building the trails by hand.

 “This grant allows us to cut down the timeline for construction,” says Vazquez. “This will allow us to get some better GPS equipment and rent a mini-excavator. Plus, we will be able to purchase slope stabilization materials for the trail that will make the project sustainable and durable for the long term.” The Recreational Trails Program run by Game, Fish & Parks has also funded other trails in the Rapid City area including those on Skyline Drive and at Buzzards Roost just outside of town. This year the fund is also helping build new trails at the Hansen Larsen Park adjacent to the university owned M Hill. 

To date South Dakota Mines students have completed a trail from the University Loop Road about halfway up the hill just west of Connolly and Palmerton Halls. Once this initial section is completed, the path will continue across the slopes behind the Wellness Center and then around the grassy hills above O’Harra Stadium to loop back on itself.

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