Efforts to develop a trail along Highway 14 will take another step this week.
An informational gathering will be held along Highway 14 at the Game Fish and Parks kiosk outside De Smet on the southeast side of town on Fri., June 24 from 5:30-7:30.
Representatives from the National Park Service and organizers of the trail project will be present to discuss possibilities and answer questions about the project.
In case of rain, the open house will be moved to the Event Center.
A group of people in De Smet have been dreaming of a trail system that utilizes and explores the countryside, including the forest reserve outside of De Smet and Silver Lake. Now, that dream is beginning to come to life.
Several years ago, a plan for a trail project was initiated, and a trail was built from the De Smet Industrial Park to Silver Lake, where it currently leads to a sitting area that looks out on the forest.
More recently, a team of organizers has been working with South Dakota Game Fish and Parks (GF&P), Kingsbury County Commissioners, De Smet City Council, South Dakota Department of Transportation, South Dakota Historical Society, Kingsbury County Conservation Service, National Park Service and other organizations to begin the first phase of this project.
The first phase will be a 10-foot-wide concrete trail starting at the east edge of the City of De Smet along Highway 14, continuing out to the GF&P kiosk southeast of town. From there, it would extend east to meet up with the existing trail and continue on the edge of City property to a tree strip area along the Big Slough for a total of approximately 3,200 feet in length.
Eventually, the team plans to work with GF&P to construct a tower at the end of the trail so people can bird watch or look out to Silver Lake.
“Visitors come from all over to see the Silver Lake area, and right now, there is not a good place to do that,” said Rita Anderson, Economic Director for De Smet. “This is a great opportunity to finally get this area accessible.”
“Not only is this a great way to get visitors outside to see our area and for the economic growth of our town, but the community will benefit greatly from the health and wellness aspects of using this trail and bring families out riding bicycles, walking and doing healthy activities together.” Anderson continued, “Right now, we do not have a trail system that connects everything, and with this, we will.”
A portion of the trail is envisioned as a boardwalk that will suspend across the Big Slough to the Forest Reserve. The team is researching a flexible, suspended bridge design for the boardwalk and looking into cost-effective materials that will last.
National Park Service ranger, Barett Steenrod, will be at the informational open house on Friday night to discuss this implementation.
The team has been consulting with the National Park Service for over two years on cost estimates and overall organization of this project. They are currently working to obtain matching funds, which will allow them to apply for larger grants. They hope to begin the project in 2023. .
The planning group would eventually like to see the project extended across the state.
“The ultimate dream is to have this completed from border to border all across South Dakota, with travelers exploring historic areas and bringing economic benefits to all of the communities along Highway 14,” said Anderson.
Taking a step in that direction, the team plans to get phase one started and then begin working with other communities along Highway 14 in Kingsbury County.
This would include extending the trail around the Forest Reserve, Ingalls Homestead and to Lake Thompson, as well as expanding it to Lake Preston, Arlington and Iroquois.
A meeting with interested community members and organizations from other towns is planned for this fall to discuss realistic next steps, including the possibility of working with the First District Association of Governments to develop a Kingsbury County Trails Corridor plan.
Anyone Interested in helping with the project can contact Rita Anderson at (605) 203-0216.
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