Federal legislation to authorize construction of a visitor center at the Minuteman National Historic Site near Wall is headed for a vote by the U.S. Senate.
South Dakota Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune announced Thursday that the legislation was reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, an important step toward overall approval.
Johnson and Thune’s legislation would transfer about 29 acres of U.S. Forest Service land to the National Park Service to construct a visitor facility and provide parking.
“We worked hard to establish the Minuteman Missile site in the late 1990s, and with my legislation we can ensure that many more South Dakotans and tourists from around the world can learn about this historic site,” said Johnson, a Democratic member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“The Minuteman Missile national site is a reminder of the historic and important role that South Dakota played in the Cold War arms race,” said Thune, a Republican. “Providing additional land to the Minuteman Missile site to be used for the development of a visitors center will make a piece of South Dakota’s past more accessible to students of history from around the globe."
The launch-control facility and missile silo that make up the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site were preserved to illustrate the history of the Cold War and the role the Air Force’s Minuteman II Missile defense system played in efforts to preserve world peace.
The legislation builds upon a bill passed in 1999 that established Minuteman Missile as a National Historic Site, which required that two sites be evaluated as potential locations for a visitor center.
The land transfer provided in the bill would allow for the construction of a visitor center and administrative facility at Exit 131 off Interstate 90 about 70 miles east of Rapid City.
The bill would also transfer 3.65 acres near the missile silo for visitor parking and other administrative uses. Congress provided funding for the construction of the visitor center when the site was established.
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site consists of the Delta-01 Launch Facility and the Delta-09 Missile Silo, located about 11 miles from one another near I-90.