South Dakota Helicopters Help Improve Hiking Trail





South Dakota Helicopters Help Improve Hiking Trail

By Paul D. Chapman

RAPID CITY, S.D. (6/2/09) -- In an effort to improve area hiking trails, two UH-60 Black Hawks from the South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG), recently airlifted nine new walking bridges near Slate Creek Dam in the Black Hills. Replacing the walking bridges has been an ongoing project for the U.S. Forest Service in the Black Hills. “Last year, we did not have helicopters to help us. We had to carry each board on foot to where it needed to go,” said David Slepnikoff, a resource staff officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

“That is why it is so nice to have the National Guard helping us this summer; it makes things so much easier and we truly appreciate the help.” It has been nearly 15 years since the SDARNG has performed this particular mission in the Black Hills.


“The last time we did this mission was near Bear Butte back in the early ‘90s.” said Chief Warrant Officer Mike Reindl, a standardization pilot with Company C, 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation. “Back then we still had Hueys.” Slepnikoff said the bridges will be replacements for the old bridges along the Slate Creek hiking trail near Hill City, S.D. “We will be installing many bridges throughout the summer starting with nine in June, nine in July and eleven in August.” he said. The SDARNG is planning to continue its support of the effort throughout the summer.

The operation began with two Black Hawks landing in a clearing near the Slate Creek Dam with a ground crew of five Soldiers arriving shortly afterward. At the bridge locations the ground crew, consisting of four Soldiers and one U.S. Forest Service employee, were responsible for marking where the bridge should be placed.

One member of the crew would stand in an open area and wait for the pilot to confirm the location. After confirmation, all individuals on the ground backed away from the drop site and the aircraft moved in to set the bridge down. Each bridge contains four or five large boards banded together and varies in length from 25 to 35 feet. The new bridges will be set in their final position across Slate Creek by volunteers. Slate Creek Hiking Trail will stay open to the public and the old bridges will remain until the new bridges are emplaced.

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