by Donna Bye
In the past, I was always one of the last attendees to sign up for a conference. My work schedule was so busy that even though I wanted to save my employer money and register early, there were too many times that my work schedule conflicted with some part of the conference and it didn’t pay. I missed out on many of the mobile tours because the spots were limited.
I’ve changed employers now and have a less hectic schedule which allowed me to register early and seek a spot on the mobile tours. This one specifically started in Spearfish, went to Lead first then on to Deadwood. I am very familiar with these communities because we vacationed here every summer while growing up. In the late 1990’s, I was employed in Rapid City for a few years. I’ve spent years in the Black Hills and always seem to find something new and exciting each time I visit.
A trolley arrived at the hotel convention center, and we all eagerly climbed aboard. Our driver knew his route and proceeded down the road. Our tour guide, Amber was quick to point out many points of interest along the way from projects just getting started to oddities still trying to gain momentum to begin. Maybe these projects didn’t have enough planning to proceed.
We arrived at the former Homestake Mine, now research facility and visitors center. We were met with a tour guide that gave the group a history of mining in the region with some really great legendary stories about residents of the region. This reclamation project is such as asset to this community. The competition was challenging, but worth all the efforts those involved gave to it.
The weather on this day was a perfect 80 degrees with a light wind. As we strolled up the main street, the elevation climbed, and we noticed a difference in the grade between the sidewalk and the roadway. A railing, although ornamental in nature, was defining the difference between a successful business with an active shopper to a closed-up storefront begging for life. This shows to be a real challenge for anyone to occupy space on this side of the street.
But as we walk further up the street we realize that many of the businesses on the other side have maybe not been there very long but have a definite advantage. Vehicles can park directly in front of their storefronts and have at-grade access to their treasures. I was most impressed with the custom benches made from recycled downhill skis and the small historic icons such as the gas-powered locomotive just hanging out on a small piece of property. Reminding each of us what used to be here and why many still live here.
The western feel of the streets allows us to imagine what life might have been like so long ago. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply to allow that hint of pine in the air envelop your senses. This community is proud of where it came from and is not about to let anyone forget it.
On to Deadwood…we are met by the Historic Preservation Officer who showed the group what successful projects restored could be. These buildings and sites around the community give way to a contagious plea to bring others along for the ride. We walked a portion of the famous Mickelson Trail and knew that possibly thousands before us on trains and stagecoaches had done the same. The mail trail extends almost 109 miles from Edgemont to Deadwood. This trailhead in Deadwood was named for a famous South Dakota Governor. It was the state’s first Rails to Trails project.
The day was absolutely what I needed to recharge my senses and appreciate once again, where I was and how I got here. If only more people could experience planning from this level.
Published in September 2017