GOOD: A wildfire in December tore through one of our state's most beloved attractions, torching more than half of Custer State Park's 71,000 acres.
Recovery efforts started almost immediately after the Legion Lake Fire. Monetary donations poured in from around the country to replace hay burned in the fire. Park staff located buffalo and other animals displaced by the fire, and assessed their needs.
The park reopened Dec. 22, less than two weeks after the fire started Dec. 11. Recovery work, which is ongoing, got a major boost last week when the park received a $1.8 million grant to support recovery efforts.
The grant was awarded to the park by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and will be used to support aerial mapping, tree thinning, reseeding, weed control, erosion control and stream rehabilitation work.
“The rebirth of Custer State Park is definitely happening," Matt Snyder, the park superintendent, said at a news conference Thursday.
Just like the arrival of spring, it's a rebirth that we can all look forward to.
BAD: Pennington County Commissioner George Ferebee appeared in court last week, for the seemingly umpteenth time, in a case in which he stands accused of violating a county zoning ordinance.
Ferebee, who lives in rural Hill City, was found guilty in September of maintaining a septic system that lacked an operating permit. The county ordinance states that on-site wastewater treatment systems need to be pumped, inspected and issued permits regularly. Ferebee appealed the conviction and has been granted a new trial.
On March 20, state Assistant Attorney General Robert Haivala — the prosecutor who got the conviction against Ferebee — was appointed to handle the new trial, scheduled for May 16 and 17 at the Pennington County Courthouse.
Ferebee was originally charged in October 2015, and since that time many high-profile cases in the county have been tried, prosecuted and resolved. There's no reason for this case to drag on much longer. Let's hope this new trial proceeds as scheduled, and a resolution is reached in a timely manner.
UGLY: On March 14, an estimated 1,100 students at Central, Stevens and Rapid City high schools joined a national movement to honor victims of school shootings and protest congressional inaction on gun violence.
To their credit, the Rapid City Area School District allowed the walkouts to take place during school hours, and students were given 17 minutes to protest — one for each victim of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
The schools were forced to place a moratorium on public visitors after receiving reports that counterprotests were "brewing and people wanted to visit the building on that day even if they had no kids in the school," said Matt Seebaum, assistant superintendent of educational services.
It's a shame anyone would want to disrupt these student-led protests. While opinions will always vary on gun control and how to make schools safer, we should all be in agreement that these bright, well-spoken students deserve to have their voices heard in this debate.