Mickelson Trail getting makeover

Leslie Silverman

The Mickelson Trail is getting a huge makeover. Trail surfacing will take place July 12 through Dec. 31 starting at Rochford and working to Custer. The trail will be open and passable, but users may encounter loose material and equipment.
The work is slated to be completed by year’s end, if not sooner.
Trail manager Dana Garry-Reiprich said riders on the Mickelson Trail can help workers by walking their bikes in the vicinity of the signs that say trail maintenance. This will also help them have a better experience on the trail.
“Riders can’t tell the difference between freshly- bladed surface and packed surface until they ride over it,” Garry-Reiprich said.
The freshly-bladed surface is very soft and cyclists  will sink when going over it.
A two-to-three-person crew is working on the north end while two to four people are working on the south end. The north end is using end dump trucks for hauling while the south end uses belly dumps which carry larger loads and make it more difficult to spread and contour.
The project is funded by S.D. Game, Fish & Parks as a budgeted project. Simon has been contracted with to haul the material.
The Rochford-to-Custer section is the last 35 miles of trail to be done. The rest was resurfaced over the course of five years. Once completed, the entire trail “will ride like year one,” Garry-Reiprich said.
The trail is usually maintained using  a “Band-Aid” approach with bad spots treated over time. Soft spots are usually scraped, recontoured and resurfaced  This project will take the  entire trail up to par by recontouring the entire trail and covering it with a compactable surface again. This is the first time it’s had major resurfacing in 24 years.
So far, eight miles on the north end have been completed from Mystic to Hill City. On the  south  end a portion  from the  mountain trailhead near Crazy Horse to Hill City has also been done.
The trail is also getting its bridges replaced. The number 45 bridge by Rafter J Bar will be replaced, as will the number 30 bridge.
Eventually every planked bridge on the trail will be replaced. Bridge money is doled out from the state general fund or raised from  the S.D. Parks and Wildlife Foundation Bridge Builder campaign.
The Mickelson Trail, like other Black Hills outdoor areas, is growing in popularity. Although there are no final numbers for this year, 2020 was the biggest year in the history of the trail and this year is  on pace to surpass that.


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