Greenhearts in the Black Hills of South Dakota
By: Brittney White, Work and Travel Employer Services Coordinator
The Black Hills of South Dakota are rich in beauty and American History. Native Americans have long inhabited “Paha Sapa,” (Black Hills in Lakota) and their culture and traditions are still alive there today. Crazy Horse Memorial and Bear Butte State Park commemorate the Lakota Warriors and sacred land to the Sioux tribe. Explorers have been coming to the area for decades to discover treasures from fossils to gold. Sue, the largest and most extensive Tyrannosaurs Rex remains were found near the Black Hills. Gold was discovered in 1874 which brought a rush of thousands to the Old West, including the famous Wild Bill Hickok. Mount Rushmore, possibly one of the nation’s most notable monuments, is located in the heart of the Black Hills. Over three million tourists come to visit the iconic sculpture and surrounding area each year. The high volume of tourists and gold mine of American history make this an ideal place for J-1 Work and Travel participants to spend their summer program.
A few weeks ago, I hit the road to see how things were going for our participants in the area this summer and visit some of the historical landmarks myself. First stop, Wall Drug Store. This tiny town, located near Badlands National Park, became famous for offering “free water” and having thousands of cheeky billboards that span the globe. Participants were working here making their famous donuts and serving up food for the thousands of guests stopping through. Next stop was Custer State Park and Wildlife Reserve. While the wildlife was roamin’ the meadows, CCI Greenheart participants were hard at work feeding the guests visiting this park. Curving through the back roads in the hills, I found my way to Hot Springs where you can see remains of Woolly Mammoths and creatures from long ago. I passed through Sturgis, home to one of the largest motorcycle rallies in U.S., and the had the opportunity to drive though the beautiful canyons in Spearfish.
Next up was a monumental stop in Keystone. Bright and early on the morning of July 10th I headed to round up the troops from Grizzly Creek Restaurant. With coffee and donuts in hand, I lured nearly thirty Work and Travel participants out of their beds to embark on our Going Greenheart Project at Mount Rushmore National Park. Led by Park Ranger, Dr. Jill Bowers, the group spent two hours cleaning up the litter and garbage on the trails around the park, monument, and parking areas. Bringing the participants and employers together to help our National Shrine shine was truly a success.