Plans to develop Raider Park into a multi-purpose educational and community space received a $50,000 boost thanks to a donation presented at the Dec. 16 Rapid City Area Schools board meeting.
The donation came from the Tom Pfeifle Memorial 5K, Inc., a nonprofit organization run by Bill and Diane Tschetter, friends of the Pfeifle family. The $50,000 was raised through sponsorships, donors, grants, and from the third annual memorial 5K in June, Bill Tschetter said.
The donation was accepted by Seth Keene and Tom Keck, the two Stevens math teachers who are leading the efforts to transform 38 acres of property on public-school land across from Stevens High School.
“We knew the donation was coming. Nobody at the district level knew it would be that substantial. We feel it’s incredible,” Keene said.
Rapid City Area Schools does not provide any funding for the development of Raider Park, Keene and Keck said. Amenities in Raider Park are being made possible entirely through donations from businesses and the community. Anyone who would like information about how best to volunteer or give money or materials can contact Keene at Seth.Keene@k12.sd.us or Keck at Thomas.Keck@k12.sd.us.
The Tschetters formed the Tom Pfeifle Memorial 5K, Inc. nonprofit with the Pfeifle family’s blessing. Tom’s parents wanted funds raised to go to an entity that shared their son’s passion for outdoor exercise and the environment, and Raider Park was a perfect fit, Bill said.
Tom Pfeifle, 19, was a Rapid City Stevens graduate who died in August 2016. He fell and suffered a brain injury while climbing on Granite Peak in Montana. He is the son of Craig Pfeifle and Jane Wipf Pfeifle of Rapid City. Because of his passion for the outdoors, Raider Park now includes the Tom Pfeifle Trails.
“We formed this nonprofit (to keep the annual 5K going) and we’re going to raise as much as we can. We love the Pfeifle family, and Tom was an amazing young man,” Diane Tschetter said. “We certainly would like to see (the park) to its completion.”
For information about making financial donations to the Tom Pfeifle Memorial 5K, Inc., or to assist the Tschetters’ fundraising efforts, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the $50,000 donation will be used for cross-country trails. Adding cross-country trails to Raider Park has been discussed for years among some school staff, Keck said. The park project gained momentum in recent years and a master site plan has been developed for it, he said. Raider Park and the Tom Pfeifle Trails, which are hiking and biking trails, were officially dedicated in October 2018.
“The community has been really good about donating time and materials and equipment,” Keene said. “We hope we can keep those things rolling. The more we get (done) on the grounds, the more people get excited.”
This year, fencing was placed around the park to prevent vehicle traffic. The park can be accessed through four designated entrances. In April, volunteers planted 20 fruit trees from the Rapid City Urban Orchard Project.
“The biggest thing people will see and the number one thing we wanted to accomplish was to secure the perimeter of the property,” Keene said. “We’re really starting to see visible progress. That helps when people can see a tangible result from donations they’ve made.”
The master plan
Raider Park is intended for use by Stevens staff and students when school in is session, Keck said. After hours, the park is available to the community. The park’s master plan ultimately envisions a place that can be used by every department at Stevens High School, Keck and Keene said.
“The initial thought was just for cross-country trails, but then we started actually thinking about who else could be involved. We’ve got this beautiful piece of property that’s just untouched,” Keck said.
“We’ve got a master plan drawn up that involves mountain biking trails, cross-country trails, we’re working on an outdoor classroom. We’re collaborating with entities in town and possibly the School of Mines. We’ll have an outdoor shelter and pavilion that we can hopefully tie in,” Keck said. “Everything we do should be and can be tied into every department in the school.”
Keck said he has talked to and brainstormed with staff from every department at Stevens High School to find ways the park can be beneficial to education. The goal is to have multipurpose places where music and theater students can present outdoor concerts. Teachers can take their classes outdoors to read, sketch and have science lessons. Some classes have already used the park to collect insects and identify plants, Keck said.
Completing the master site plan in the park will cost an estimated $1.9 to $2.9 million, he said.
“Raider Park itself, and the Tom Pfeifle Trails established in his honor, reflect well Tom’s values of open access to public spaces, the repurposing of little or ill-used facilities or materials for positive use, and physical activity. I am amazed by the energy and commitment of Seth Keene and Tom Keck at Stevens in envisioning a better use of this property,” said Craig Pfeifle, Tom’s father.
“We are humbled by the efforts of the Tom Pfeifle Memorial 5K, Inc. committee chaired by Bill and Diane Tschetter in planning and hosting an annual run, which provides significant proceeds to support the park. The funds have fostered real progress. How Raider Park has grown exhibits well the multiple uses Tom would champion — running trails, biking trails, land reclamation, planting of trees, art in the park, and the classes and learning there; all supported by sweat equity, and community giving to this space from individuals and corporate sponsors alike. These speak to Tom’s ideals. We are so grateful for this support and this recognition of Tom’s impact on the Rapid City and the Stevens community in particular,” he said.
Raider Park art
Three sculptures created by Alicia English’s art students at Stevens High School will be some of the future amenities in Raider Park. Students competed in a Raider Park Sculpture Contest during the fall 2019 semester; winners were announced Dec. 20.
“Students created sculptures based on different aspects of Raider Park. They took over the project and created a contract to determine the size of the sculpture, who to contact for support, consequences for low effort and much more. They developed their ideas based on the natural habitat, Tom Pfeifle Trails, the history of the land, and the connection to the school. Seth Keene presented information about the park at the beginning of our unit,” English said.
Jaden Matkins, Hanna Landguth and Abigail Sampson were the first, second and third place winners, as determined by votes from students, staff, parents and online votes on Facebook. Tom Pfeifle’s parents, Jane and Craig Pfeifle of Rapid City, chose their favorite entry, and that student, Halle Karna, won the Tom Pfeifle Award. She will present her sculpture to the Pfeifles after Christmas, English said.
English’s second semester Advanced Clay students will sculpt larger-scale versions of the three winning entries, and those larger versions will be placed in Raider Park in spring 2020, English said.
The sculpture contest is the second student-designed art project inspired by Raider Park. During the spring 2019 semester, Stevens junior Cassidy Teeslink designed a logo as a project for Deborah Reynolds’ graphic design class. Students entered their logos in a contest, and Keck and Keene chose the winning design. Teeslink’s logo was printed on stickers that sold out; Keene said more stickers will be printed.
The logo, like the sculptures, reflects prominent aspects of the park. Teeslink’s design focused on a runner, a biker, and people studying.
“I wanted to incorporate what the park was all about and what students could do there,” she said. “Raider Park is a place for students to get active and also learn about the environment. I wanted to incorporate that and the RCAS logo to bring (the design) back to the school.”