DEADWOOD | In the shadows of a tower symbolizing one of the most enduring friendships in the history of the Black Hills, two dozen Girl Scouts fanned out Monday, painting an outhouse, staining a massive deck, clearing slash, learning about future careers and, in the process, making a few new friends.

Twenty-five Girl Scouts representing a dozen troops from Newell to Rapid City took advantage of the sunny, 75-degree day and marked a century of service to the Black Hills by working in tandem with U.S. Forest Service staff at the historic Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower, the first monument in the nation to honor President Theodore Roosevelt following his death in 1919.

Built as a memorial to the 26th U.S. president 98 years ago by his close friend Seth Bullock, Deadwood’s first lawman and the first superintendent of Black Hills National Forest, the rock and mortar 31-foot-tall, 16-foot-wide circular tower was restored several years ago. Bullock, a Rough Rider who died just months after Roosevelt, is buried high above his town’s fabled Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where his permanent resting place has a view of Mount Roosevelt far across the gulch.

On Monday, the Girl Scouts learned a bit of that history, then heard presentations from a number of female Forest Service staff focusing on the region’s geology, archeology, hydrology, recreation and forest management. Later, the scouts worked alongside Forest Service staff to spruce up the forested grounds surrounding the tower.

“They are seeing all these women from the Forest Service who are incredible role models working in fields related to science and doing jobs that are all about service to our world,” said Jenny Payton of Dakota Horizons Girl Scouts. “Today allowed our scouts to do a service project and learn about U.S. Forest Service careers and the forest stewardship they practice.”

Kaysie Dahl, an 11-year-old scout headed for sixth grade at Southwest Middle School in Rapid City this fall, said she had “learned a bunch of new things” during the morning sessions.

“I love being outdoors and hanging out with friends and family,” the freckle-faced Dahl said, smoothing her brown ponytail. “I thought the forestry session was cool because her job was to explore things and look around the forest.”

Kim Oslund, a Rapid City businesswoman who escorted her 6-year-old granddaughter, Zoe Gaston, to the mountaintop event, said she was impressed by the Forest Service staff who explored rocks, water, landscapes and monuments in their talks.

“Seeing women, young women doing these jobs for the Forest Service, is telling these girls that they could do this job too, and that in the forest industry, women are under-represented right now,” Oslund said. “These ladies are showing these girls options for their future.”

John Kelley, a USFS regional lands and recreation manager from Spearfish, agreed with Oslund’s assessment and said the first educational and outdoor workday had received such a positive response, they had to turn some volunteers away.

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“This partnership with the Girl Scouts is helping our agency approach the future and encourage and grow a new generation of leaders,” Kelley said. “The interest of these girls has been very affirming that this has been a worthwhile endeavor.”

Hailey McCann, an 11-year-old member of Newell Troop No. 72115, embraced the day’s activities and said she “learned that there are a lot of different kinds of geology in the forest, discovered archeology, and learned the difference between prehistoric and historic.”

And the thoughtful young woman said she had a blast meeting other Girl Scouts from Box Elder, Black Hawk, Sturgis, Spearfish and Rapid City.

“I like that I can make new friends and meet new people and learn new things and learn how to communicate better with different kinds of girls,” McCann said. “But I am going to be happiest about helping someone stain their deck this afternoon, something they would have to spend hours doing themselves.”

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Northern Hills reporter for the Rapid City Journal.