WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK-"You didn't just build a road, you created access to a very unique part of the park," said Tom Ferrell of Wind Cave National Park.
He was speaking to members of the organization, Friends of Wind Cave National Park and thanking them for their work on improving 266 Street at a thank you reception held at the Park on Saturday, September 29.
266 Street is a section line road south east of Wind Cave National Park off of Read Valley Road. Prior to this summer's improvements, it was a dirt trail. It now meets county road specifications.
Improving the road was an important step for the National Park to open the Sanson Ranch up to the public. The ranch property was acquired by Wind Cave National Park in 2011 and added 5,500 acres to the parks area.
It has yet to be completely opened to the public except for occasional guided events or hikes.
The National Parks Service gave Wind Cave four criteria to meet in order to open the property completely for public access. One was improving the road outside the park.
This proved to be a challenge for the Park because they are not allowed to spend Park money outside of the Park boundaries. That is where the Friends of Wind Cave National Park came it. They were able to raise the funds necessary to improve the roads.
"Friends groups of any national park do things parks can't do," said Don De Vries, President of Friends of Wind Cave National Park.
The South Dakota National Guard did the road improvements as part of their Golden Coyote Exercise. The exercise gave Guard members the opportunity to practice and learn road building techniques. Their task was complicated with the heavy rainfall the area received in early summer.
The other three requirements the park needed to fulfill before opening the property to the general public are: securing all buildings on the property, picking up and assessing the agricultural artifacts on the property from its time as a ranch and improving the existing road in the park and creating parking.
Wind Cave as secured the property's buildings and has been cataloging and inspecting the agricultural artifacts around the property. The remaining task of creating parking and improving the road within the park could be completed as early as next year and public access to the property could possibly begin as early as summer of 2019.
Once open, the property is sure to be a great asset to the National Park. It features a 1918 homestead along with additional structures on site, an ancient buffalo jump and impressive vistas.
Friends of Wind Cave National Park is a non-profit devoted to supporting and promoting Wind Cave National Park. For more information about the organization or for questions about membership, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.