- Associated Press - Friday, June 16, 2017

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, June 15

Future bright for public use of reservoir area

Thanks to the efforts of the city of Sturgis and the nonprofit Black Hills Trails group, outdoors enthusiasts will soon have another place to hike, explore and enjoy with their friends and families.

Recently, the Sturgis City Council voted to open to the public an area near the community where four small reservoirs were built starting in 1891 by Joseph Davenport for his water company. In 1978, his descendants sold the reservoirs and surrounding land to the city. Two years later, the city switched to well water and the reservoirs have been off-limits to the public ever since.

The city’s decision to open the reservoirs to the public coincides with the efforts of Black Hills Trails, which thanks to volunteers and others is building non-motorized trails to and through this new recreational area that is just three miles southwest of Sturgis city limits.



In addition, the local nonprofit, which is investing a considerable amount of its own money to the project, is working with the National Forest Service to study the construction of more trails on neighboring federal land. The group hopes to someday help build a 23-mile trail system that connects to existing trails that include Centennial Trail and Seventh Cavalry Trails.

This ambitious project has the potential add another destination element to Sturgis, now known globally for its annual motorcycle rally in August that attracts hundreds of thousands of bikers.

In its enthusiasm for a project that might make Sturgis a hiking as well as a motorcycle community, the City Council recently approved a resolution saying the best use of the reservoirs would be as part of a state park, which brought to mind Gov. Daugaard’s recent plan to do the same in Spearfish Canyon.

That plan, however, was met by a barrage of opposition from local residents who did not want to see further development there. The initiative died an early death in the 2016 Legislature.

Daugaard, who recently toured the reservoirs, said at this point he sees this land as perhaps a candidate for a state recreation area, which means the state would not invest in additional infrastructure like roads and camping pads to bring it up to park standards. It also means the state would likely not charge an entrance fee.

It seems the governor has learned from the Spearfish Canyon experience that local residents and others feel there is no need for another state park in the Black Hills at this time.

The Sturgis City Council, however, need not be too concerned about the prospects for its new gem. A less-developed recreation area that is free to the public and prohibits motorized vehicles will certainly be a draw for outdoors lovers who will come to see and enjoy another side of the city.

___

Capital Journal, Pierre, June 11

Pierre and Fort Pierre should embrace an expanded role in CUC’s operations

It appears that the Board of Regents is seeking to divest itself somewhat from Pierre’s only institution of higher education, the Capital University Center.

This is, on the surface anyway, a troubling development but, if you dig a little deeper, there is opportunity to be found.

The cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre, along with towns all over central South Dakota, are struggling with a shortage of workers. We have been for some time.

One of the biggest barriers to growing our workforce is a lack of opportunity for higher education. The Capital University Center is about the only option we have here. You would be forgiven, then, for thinking that given the 100-plus miles separating Pierre from the nearest tech school or university, the CUC would be a popular place.

After all, a recent survey of area students found that many would stick around if they could learn a trade or complete a degree while living at home. The problem is, if you’re a high school graduate who wants to learn something other than nursing or general education, business or banking, you’ve got to leave.

As it turns out, business, banking and general education aren’t exactly high-demand or high- paying fields of study. That fact, combined with lower-cost, easy-to-use online-degree programs available from just about every university in America right now, has caused a steep decline in the number of students enrolled at CUC.

Naturally, declining enrollments are forcing the Board of Regents to reevaluate the CUC. In fact, the university centers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City also have found themselves in need of a rethink.

So where’s the opportunity in all this doom and gloom? Well, if Pierre and Fort Pierre can find a way to pay for the new CUC executive director’s salary, the cities should get a bigger say in how the CUC operates. The director also could be asked to split their time between education and workforce-development efforts, which badly need someone who is dedicated to them.

The BOR is asking our cities to pitch in a combined $62,000 a year for this position. That’s not terribly much in the grand scheme of things. If it helps grow the area’s workforce, the $62,000 could very easily pay for itself.

At the very least, this is something at which we need to take a serious look.

___

American News, Aberdeen, June 15

Diversity coalition should step up

The Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition is losing in the local court of public opinion and awareness.

The group, which is working to help integrate new citizens - refugees, immigrants and other newcomers - into our community has let other groups fill the conversational void, to the detriment of Aberdeen.

That’s not to say what the coalition is doing is not worthwhile; far from it. But we would like to see a greater engagement in the conversation at large.

Until now, only one local group, calling itself “Americans First, Task Force,” has had a high public profile in the discussion of refugees and immigrants in Aberdeen and South Dakota. The loosely affiliated outfit - essentially just a Facebook group, with no one admitting ownership - is anti-refugee.

What that group has done - what the Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition has failed at - is dominated the local discussion of refugees and immigrants and their place in our community.

The group has done this by being incredibly active on Facebook, with more than 1,140 “likes” as of this writing, reaching audiences of users with strong opinion and links.

It has parlayed that audience into a seemingly successful string of anti-refugee, anti-Islam speakers in Aberdeen.

The task force posed a question in its Facebook announcement: “With all the jihadist terrorism in the news these days, would you like to know more than what’s fed to us in cherry-picked local and national media headlines?”

Hundreds have been attending these events.

Meanwhile, the Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition has been meeting every other Thursday at the Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center, at an inopportune midmorning time. Though the meetings are open to the public, only about a dozen folks gather, mostly those who are sympathetic to their cause. The group has no web or social media presence; it has not sponsored any events on par with other groups, or hosted any speakers. Its visible outreach to the community has been minimal.

Part of the coalition’s effort has been put toward securing a $35,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to create a newcomers section at the new Aberdeen library, especially for those learning to speak English. That’s a good thing, but still months away from realization.

Today, we implore the Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition - like the other task force, a self-appointed group, but with true nonprofit status - to go where the people are. Get a Facebook page going with links to accurate news stories, and talk about the real challenges facing Aberdeen.

The coalition should look toward local, regional and national speakers and programs who can turn the talking points away from hate, fear and mistrust and closer to understanding, working together and what it all means.

Yes, there will always be online trolls. Yes, there will always be rude people in crowds.

But that should not deter members of the Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition from trying to reach those outside of their circle.

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