Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, July 28, 2020

South Dakota Mines Student Mountain Bike Trail Project Lands Major Grant

South Dakota Mines student volunteers work during the fall of 2019 on a mountain bike and hiking trail behind campus. The recent grant from South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks will allow for mechanized equipment for this type of trail building.


South Dakota Mines students who are designing and building a mountain bike trail on the grassland hills directly behind campus have been awarded a grant of $48,913 from the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Recreational Trails Program.  

“South Dakota Mines and the surrounding Black Hills have some world class mountain biking trails within 10 minutes of campus,” says Fernando Vazquez who recently graduated from Mines with a degree in metallurgical engineering. “This project will add more miles of trails to those already in the area.” 

The project was first conceptualized about 12 years ago as the “Turbine Trail.” Its name refers to the wind turbine that is perched above campus. Emeritus professor of civil engineering, M.R. Hansen, Ph.D., was one of those behind the idea. “This promotes well-being and physical activity on campus. The American Society of Civil Engineering student chapter did a great deal of work on the original project and I’m happy to see the effort is continuing.” says Hansen.  

Jon Kellar, Ph.D., a professor of metallurgy and materials science carried the idea forward along with faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at South Dakota Mines.  The first phase of the renewed effort involved a senior design project by a group of civil engineering students who did survey work. South Dakota Mines student volunteers then began work on building the trails by hand. 

“This grant allows us to cut down the timeline for construction,” says Vazquez. “This will allow us to get some better GPS equipment and rent a mini-excavator. Plus, we will be able to purchase slope stabilization materials for the trail that will make the project sustainable and durable for the long term.” The Recreational Trails Program run by Game, Fish & Parks has also funded other trails in the Rapid City area including those on Skyline Drive and at Buzzards Roost just outside of town. This year the fund is also helping build new trails at the Hansen Larsen Park adjacent to the university owned M Hill.  

To date South Dakota Mines students have completed a trail from the University Loop Road about halfway up the hill just west of Connolly and Palmerton Halls. Once this initial section is completed, the path will continue across the slopes behind the Wellness Center and then around the grassy hills above O’Harra Stadium to loop back on itself.

The trail project is not only about enhancing recreation opportunities near campus, the effort also includes an education component. Professors in the civil engineering department are planning a land reclamation study along the trail to add an extra educational component to the project. The area also has potential for archeology studies around the “Smelter Hill” area above O’Harra Stadium. In the early history of the school, gold and other metals were processed on this site. 

Vazquez graduated this spring and is now employed in Rapid City with Endlas, a company that provides laser cladding and other high precision metal manufacturing and engineering services. He will remain involved in the trail building project as an alumni advisor so he will be able to assist future student teams in the on-going project. Kyle Caudle, Ph.D., an associate professor of math at South Dakota Mines, is an advisor to the mountain bike club on campus who also brings continuity to the project.    

“Mountain biking has always been a passion of mine, and I’m excited to be a steward for the sport and get more people excited about cycling,” says Vazquez. But he is reluctant to take too much credit for this project. “This is really about the student body and the many volunteers. The ultimate goal is to leave this as a legacy for future students and to inspire new projects like this. It’s wonderful to see the support from the university and our community partners like the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks.”   

The grant funding from the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks will come as an 80% reimbursement after the work is complete. Jerilyn Roberts, the associate vice president for facilities, risk, and services is overseeing the project at South Dakota Mines. State and university officials are now working through the clearance process and draft a grant agreement that will allow the project to begin. It’s expected that the work on the trail associated with this grant will begin within the coming year.

Dean of Students, Patricia Mahon, Ph.D., has been a part of the project from its earliest inception. “This is a wonderful enhancement for the university. It ties our campus with the bike path along the length of Rapid Creek,” says Mahon. “I am also pleased that this bike path, right outside our back door, connects South Dakota Mines students to recreational opportunities that are found across the beautiful Black Hills and Badlands.”



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu

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