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Sturgis approves Bike Path Master Plan

September 25, 2018

STURGIS — The city of Sturgis approved a Bike Path Master Plan to serve as a roadmap for future recreational trails development in the community.

City Manager Daniel Ainslie said there was a small section which addressed bike paths in the city’s comprehensive plan that was originally adopted in 2010, but it did not go into detail as to where they should be located.

“If this is adopted, it makes it easier for us to apply and hopefully receive grants,” he told Sturgis City Council members Sept. 17. And when areas of the community grow, the city cannot require developers to add a bike path if the city has no comprehensive bike path plan, Ainslie said.

“It may take 25 years for some of these paths to be developed, but as construction and development occurs in our community, more of that is taken on by the developer. Then, whatever gaps there still are, the city can work to finish those,” he said.

The city currently has a line item in its capital improvement fund budget for bike trails.

City Engineer Liz Wunderlich worked with students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology on the bike path plan. As part of the students’ senior project, they worked with Wunderlich to assess the current trails within the city. On April 19, the group hosted an open house at the Sturgis Community Center to talk about current conditions of trails and what should be constructed next. They offered six different trail options for the city and welcomed suggestions from the community on how to proceed.

Wunderlich said the students helped to identify gaps in the city’s bike system, and once the students completed their project, they handed it off to Wunderlich, who analyzed the document and made some changes before presenting it to the city council.

The plan includes several options for proposed bike paths to connect existing bike paths, as well as phases that will serve new neighborhoods that have developed in recent years, she said.

The city has been working with Black Hills Trails and the U.S. Forest Service to build a network of mountain bike trails south of Sturgis. The new plan shows a proposed bike path along Vanocker Canyon that will connect the existing city bike trails to the new mountain bike trails. The plan also includes design standards to follow with new construction, including width, and signage requirements.

Wunderlich said the goal of the city is to provide an extensive bike path system that will offer an interconnected, safe alternative for Sturgis citizens of all ages and abilities to walk or ride to parks, schools, trails, and more.

Wunderlich said the city needs the approved plan to accompany a Transportation Alternative Grant application with the South Dakota Department of Transportation. She said there is a better chance of getting the $400,000 grant if it includes a Master Bike Plan. The money would be used to construct the Vanocker Canyon Bike Path.

Ainslie said people should know that not everything in the plan will be built in the next five or so years.

“This is a laying out of a plan of where we would like to get to in 20 to 30 years,” he said. “If you don’t start somewhere, then you’ll never get there.”

City Councilor Ron Waterland said he understood the need for the plan, but he had some concerns about particulars in the document, namely a bike lane on Junction Avenue.

“I don’t think that is a real safe way to run a bike path,” he said.

Ainslie assured him that the plan will continually be evolving, and that by adopting the plan, it gives developers an idea of bike routes in the community, and also serves as a means by which the city can apply for recreation grants.

Mayor Mark Carstensen said adding bike paths in Sturgis makes the community a better place.

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