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Forest Service opens Maah Daah Hey II: Trail extension added for outdoor enthusiasts

Press Photo by Mike Hricik Forest Service recreation manager Paula Jablonski, left, looks at the trailhead for the Maah Daah Hey II at Sully Creek State Park Sunday, along with Forest Service trail manager Greg Morel.

By Mike Hricik

MEDORA — Former Mount Rushmore National Park superintendent Gerard Baker gave the trail bridging Theodore Roosevelt’s North and South Units the name “Maah Daah Hey” in 1999. It is a Mandan-Hidatsa Indian phrase, meaning “an area that has been or will be around for a long time.”

Now that a 43-mile extension to the trail is accessible to cyclists, horseback riders and hikers, Baker said he hopes that name rings true, even as the statewide oil boom takes away the natural beauty of the grasslands.

“This is going to be a place for reprieve,” Baker said. “You can laugh, you can sit, you can think and you can feel here.”

The Maah Daah Hey II officially opened Saturday, stretching from from Sully Creek State Park near Medora to Burning Coal Vein Campground, approximately 15 miles northwest of Amidon.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the U.S. Forest Service will jointly manage portions of the trail in their respective territories.

Speakers provided an overview of the trail’s history and stressed the importance of recreation in the United States, as June 7 marked National Trails Day.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who could not attend the ceremony, declared this week Maah Daah Hey Trail System Week in honor of the opening, according to a letter read by a Forest Service ranger.

State Rep. Keith Kempenich of Bowman said he is in talks with the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association on setting up a trust fund for the trail’s maintenance.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said she hiked the trail prior to its opening on Memorial Day weekend. At one point, she got stuck in some form of quicksand up to her pelvis, but still said she saw species and sights she could never encounter anywhere else.

“On your feet, you can see so much more,” Naylor said, decrying June 6’s National Doughnut Day, with a laugh.

Forest Service grasslands engineer Curt Glasoe located, designed and constructed the original Maah Daah Hey Trail along with crew chief Russ Walsh.

“My bosses wanted to see the grasslands occupied by recreationalists as well as ranchers,” Glasoe said.

He said the first Maah Daah Hey Trail had an environmental impact statement only six pages long, while the second faced more governmental hurdles — with more than 100 pages attached to the statement.

Glasoe commended the Forest Service on extending the longest continuous single-track mountain biking trail in America.

Forest Service trail manager Greg Morel said thousands of man-hours went into getting the new trail right. More work on surfacing will continue this summer.

“People are finally ready to get out and enjoy the land,” Morel said.