Ellsworth, Black Hills National Forest forge Veteran's Point care agreement

  • Published
  • By Mr. Steven Merrill
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The Raiders of the 28th Bomb Wing became the first agency ever to adopt a trail in the Black Hills during the Veteran’s Point Trailhead Partnership dedication ceremony at the Pactola Reservoir in South Dakota, Oct. 24.

Ellsworth Air Force Base and the Black Hills National Forest forged an agreement where Airmen from the world’s largest B-1B combat wing will help care for and maintain Veteran’s Point Trail. This partnership will provide opportunities to give back to the community while reaffirming the base’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

“Ellsworth is proud of its connection with the Black Hills community, and we strive to maintain and strengthen that relationship,” said Col. Derek Oakley, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “Adopting Veteran’s Point is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we work together. It provides a way for our Airmen to care for our environment, ensures the Black Hills National Forest retains its beauty, and it bolsters our ties to the community.”

Oakley added he welcomes other agencies and organizations in the area to team with the base at Veteran’s Point to lend a hand and complete projects together, building on that sense of community.

Ivan Green, Black Hills National Forest acting Forest Supervisor, said the agreement between the agency and base is their model for future agency agreements.

“Partnerships like this are important in that they leverage additional folks to help us care for the land,” Green said. “The Black Hills National Forest is a very special place to many people, in many ways and we are honored to have the Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base adopt this location on the forest, as way to give back to their community, in a shared stewardship kind of way. As we move forward, we would like to replicate this partnership with others who value the forest and want to make it a better place for future generations.”

Veteran’s Point Trail is a free-use half-mile trail on the north side of Pactola Reservoir. It’s a paved trail designed for accessibility for all users, including benches and tables for viewing the lake and surrounding area. There is a shorter natural surface trail just south of the parking lot for quick access to the lakeshore and bridge for fishing and swimming.

The trail originated in 1989 through a partnership with the Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.). The project was completed in 1999, in honor of the nation’s servicemembers for their sacrifice in keeping America free.

“Thousands of people visit this location each year to take a short hike along the lake, fish from the shore, enjoy a lakeside picnic or just relax on the benches and enjoy the beautiful scenery,” said Scott Jacobson, Black Hills National Forest public affairs officer. “It’s fitting that we formalize a partnership with Ellsworth, as a place for Airmen to volunteer their time to care for and maintain this site.”

He added the duties may include trail maintenance, tree branch and trash removal, painting handrails, maintaining picnic tables, benches, and similar work to keep the area pristine.

For more information on Ellsworth Air Force Base or the Black Hills National Forest, visit: www.Ellsworth.af.mil or www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills.