Student Conservation Association Crews Erect Trail Markers At Wind Cave National Park

Two high school crews from the Student Conservation Association spent time in Wind Cave National Park this summer installing trail markers. NPS photo.

It was hot, dusty, back-breaking work, but someone had to do it. And in the case of planting 116 posts to mark trails at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, that chore fell to Student Conservation Association crews.

The wooden trail markers were placed along 4.5 miles of the Highland Creek and Centennial trails through the park this summer by two high school SCA crews.

“These trail markers will help hikers find their way through the park’s backcountry,” said park Superintendent Vidal Davila. “We’ve been working with the SCA organization for several years now to upgrade our trail system by installing trail markers, constructing small bridges, and improving the trail surface.”

The two 11-person high school crews each spent three weeks working at the park and camping out. For some, it was their first time away from home.

“This can be a challenging environment for our crew members,” said crew leader Laura Markstein. “They come from all over the country not knowing anyone else. They live in an intense camp environment working as a team doing chores, each pulling their own weight, and spending their days working on the park’s trails. This program provides an environment in which crewmembers can grow as responsible community members and conservationist leaders. ”

Perhaps the biggest fans of the trail markers are the bison, who like to rub against them. Because of this, each marker weighed around 35 pounds and was set 30 inches into the ground to take the added pressure of a 2,000-pound animal pushing against it.

There are more than 30 miles of hiking trails available for exploring the park’s backcountry.