GOOD: The love this area has for Spearfish Canyon was on display again last week at a celebration of trail and other improvements that would not have been possible without the efforts of a fruitful public-private partnership. Representatives from state Game, Fish & Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, the Spearfish Canyon Foundation and area chambers of commerce were on hand Thursday to help dedicate a project that improves access to Spearfish Falls while adding observation decks and additional signage and maps along the trail. The project, which cost GF&P around $400,000, was a true team effort. The federal Recreational Trails program contributed grant funds and the National Guard removed one bridge, built a new one and constructed a lower observation deck. The nonprofit Spearfish Canyon Foundation, meanwhile, has raised nearly $800,000 in the past decade that was used to acquire properties for the new trail system.
BAD: One can only imagine what Rapid City High School teacher Ryan Brewer is enduring as the news from his family drips in from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico. Brewer’s wife and three young children are among the survivors of Hurricane Maria. According to a story in Saturday’s Journal, Brewer’s family saw their home — like much of the island — destroyed in the storm on Sept. 20. Since then, they and other survivors have had to scramble for shelter, food, water, fuel and other essential supplies in a place that had its infrastructure shredded by the hurricane. Brewer, who was waiting for his family to relocate to Rapid City when the storm walloped Puerto Rico, now finds it difficult to communicate with his wife while he works to send her supplies as the recovery from the storm moves at a snail’s pace. "I'd like my family to have fresh water, food and a generator," he said. If you would like to help a family that really needs it now, items can be donated to Brewer’s parents at 24853 VIP Road in Hermosa.
UGLY: Lawmakers have received new information about the Gear Up program that raises more questions about the state’s questionable oversight of the multi-million dollar federal program designed to help low-income high school students prepare for college. Mid Central Educational Co-op managed the program from 2011 to 2015 when the state Board of Education terminated its contract, which authorities say led Scott Westerhuis to kill his wife, Nichole, their four children and himself while he torched their home near Platte. Since then, the state has estimated that $1.4 million in Gear Up funds are missing. On Friday, lawmakers learned that no records exist of payments from the state to another nonprofit — Oceti Sakowin Educational Consortium — and its business manager, Nichole Westerhuis, from 2005 to 2011. The nonprofit no longer exists and the money may never be accounted for. A program that was supposed to help so many has turned into a scandal with too many questions. Let’s hope state lawmakers keep digging.