Black Hills Backcountry Horsemen of South Dakota receive Double Diamond Award |

Black Hills Backcountry Horsemen of South Dakota receive Double Diamond Award

A prestigious award was recently presented to the Black Hills Backcountry Horsemen of South Dakota (BH BCH SD) by the National Backcountry Horsemen of America (BCHA) organization.

The Double Diamond award was presented during the 2014 National BCHA meeting in Chattanooga, Tenn. to the group, recognizing their volunteer work on the Black Hills National Forest Harney Peak Lookout Tower Preservation Project.

In September 2013, BH BCH SD members assisted Forest Service personnel including Forest Service Region 2 lead packer, Glenn Ryan, with his mule pack-string, in hauling supplies and equipment to the top of the historic Harney Peak Lookout Tower to be used for preservation work. Tools, scaffolding, windows, concrete, water, and miscellaneous items were packed in over a three-day period. Approximately 40 loads of materials were hauled in by the pack-string and BH BCH SD pack-stock for the project.

“What a well-deserved honor,” Craig Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest supervisor said. “The Backcountry Horsemen of South Dakota volunteer their skills well beyond Harney Peak. They are valued partners in restoration, riding etiquette, and trail maintenance on public lands in western South Dakota. They are Double Diamonds!”

The Tower was missing windows and weather had eroded and worn the structure’s interior. Numerous original structural stone to the steps and tower were also missing on the structure’s exterior. Forest Service archeologists and wilderness personnel planned the project to return the Lookout Tower to some of its original state by re-installing windows in the lower structure and locating and replacing stones that had been displaced.

Last September, volunteers installed 18 replica windows. Additionally, the Forest Service worked to repair the mortared stone stairs attached to the lookout tower. Maintenance efforts were traditional, meaning no motorized equipment or power tools were used at the Tower.

Using chainsaws outside of the wilderness area, and cross-cut saws (a type of hand saw) in the wilderness area, BH BCH SD also assisted the Forest Service with clearing dead and downed trees that had fallen across Trail #9, the trail being used to haul materials to the tower. “The night before the project was to begin, a thunderstorm came roaring through with 70 mile-per-hour gusts knocking down approximately 90 trees across the trail, leaving it impassable,” said Renee Bechen, public relations officer for BH BCH SD. “The crew spent 10 hours riding, packing, sawing, cross-cutting and removing trees to re-open Trail #9.”

BH BCH SD’s “Harney Peak Lookout Tower Preservation Project” was selected as the winner of the National Double Diamond Award and recognized with a plaque that was accepted by Renee Bechen during the National BCHA awards banquet April 26.

“Our BH BCH SD organization has enjoyed the working partnership that we have with the Black Hills National Forest,” said Doug Bechen, BH BCH SD president. “The Double Diamond award acknowledges the cooperative effort on a significant project between the Forest Service and the BH BCH SD organization. The Harney Peak Preservation project was a gallant project that could not be completed without Forest Service personnel, Forest Service Region 2 lead packer, Glenn Ryan, BH BCH SD and other volunteers (masons, carpenters, and others).”

Work on the Harney Peak Lookout Tower Project will continue for the next 2 years with an anticipated completion date in late 2015.

The historic Harney Peak Lookout Tower is located within the Black Elk Wilderness on the Black Hills National Forest. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 for its unique style of architecture, in addition to its association with the Civilian Conservation Corps and historic recreational use.

The BCHA has 174 chapters in 27 states including over 13,000 members with the overall goal to assist on public land projects that include: trail maintenance, trail construction, educational programs, and other projects.

–U.S. Forest Service