10-mile trail proposed at Mount Rushmore

by Wayne Ortman
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 9-07

Mount Rushmore Superintendent Gerard Baker hopes that someday be can tell visitors to the national memorial to take a hike.

A 10-mile backcountry trail loop at Mount Rushmore is one of 201 proposals the National Park Service has approved for its fiscal 2008 Centennial Challenge project in celebration of the Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016.

The Rushmore National Memorial Society would be a 50-50 matching partner to pay for the $1.2 million trail project.

Baker, Rushmore superintendent since May 2004, said the trail will be more than just a walk in the woods, although old-growth ponderosa pine that can’t be seen from the highway will be one aspect of the trail.

“What I’d like them to learn is the natural resources of the Black Hills, and also to be able to go out behind the sculpture to sit and really listen to the harmony of nature, if you will,” Baker said. “The quietness and get some idea and see what we have out there as far as resources, trees, rocks and learn some geology and some cultural history – why do American Indians utilize the Black Hills, the coming of western expansion, the logging, fires and mining.”

Elders from the Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota are part of the planning process, said Baker, the first American Indian to serve as Rushmore superintendent and a member of North Dakota’s Mandan and Hidatsa tribes.

“They’ve from day one always agreed that they wanted to also have the opportunity to share their culture (with Rushmore visitors). This is a way to do that,” said Baker.

The trail will be all natural, steep in places and designed for foot traffic and not handicapped accessible. Some low-profile bridges may be needed in areas of runoff.

There will be some wayside exhibit areas along the route inside the 1,200-acre Mount Rushmore Memorial, and Baker said he hopes it eventually will have connections to the larger Mickelson Trail and Centennial Trail in the Black Hills.

Volunteers are expected to do much of the work in building the trail and in maintaining it, said Baker.

His idea is to get elementary students involved in a contest to name the trail. Schools may be invited to the memorial for a lesson on sculptor Gutzon Borglum and Mount Rushmore, or a DVD may be created and sent to classrooms, Baker said.

A trail route has been chosen and archaeological surveying is under way.