School of Mines students dust off old trails with grant funding

Game, Fish and Parks will give more than $48,000 to the college to help create and maintain mountain bike trails on campus
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:34 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) -With help from a $48,913 grant, the School of Mines and Technology is blowing the dust off an old project.

Trails on Skyline Drive are not the only ones supported by the Game, Fish and Parks Recreation Program grant.

More than a decade ago, a School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) professor wanted to have a hiking trial on campus, but the rough steep path meant little recreational use.

A couple of years ago a new professor decided to open the trails once again.

“One day I was at Surbeck Center and I came out and I just looked at our campus and on three sides were surrounded by green space and it just dawned on me that it was really an opportunity,” Jon Kellar, a SDSMT professor of metallurgy and materials science, said.

A former student, Fernando Vasquez, is spearheading the 3.5-mile trail project by not only allowing hikers, but bike riders to take advantage of the trails too.

While part of the intents is to help bridge the relationship gap between students and the downtown Rapid City community, like the East of Fifth movement, it serves as an educational site for students too.

Students can learn about excavation, soil and maybe even find more minerals on “Smelter Hill.”

Vasquez said by widening the trail two feet, the college could host competitions for the city and help out the college’s own cross country team.

“We have St. Joseph Street kind of circling the only entrances and exits for the School of Mines it just gets a little bit of a hazard at times to getting to the greenway,” Vasquez, the project’s alumni advisor, said.

Last year students completed a quarter mile, but starting in January the grant money will kick in and last for two years expediting the project.

Vasquez said the grant will help “reinforce the trail sides and also get some heavier equipment to speed up the process as oppose to taking five to six years with just volunteer efforts.

The money will allow them to rent a mini excavator and attain GPS technology to get the job done.

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