Deadwood, South Dakota, is the final resting place for Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and is home to more buried residents than unburied ones; yet it is unearthing new ways to breath life into its sustainability efforts. Deadwood was founded in 1870 (illegally) to host the onslaught of gold miners that flocked to work in the thriving Homestake Mine of Lead, SD, located a few miles away. Deadwood was intentionally formed to "mine" the miners through gambling, liquor sales and prostitution; today the town focuses on mining tourists (through much the same tactics).
As I wend my way through the gorgeous Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (above) toward Deadwood, I expected to arrive at a threadbare, "once-was" boomtown but what I found instead was a thriving community that seemed to be mostly orchestrated by the happiest seniors I have stumbled across. They worked in the hotels, casinos, bars, guided tours (I think some might have known Wild Bill personally), drove the trolley, ran the tourist information center. Everywhere I went there was a senior discount. It was the first time in my life I wished I was sixty.
By leveraging the town's strengths (high population of seniors) and its gaming draw (casinos are mandated to give an undisclosed proportion of revenues to the city for upkeep), Deadwood has been able to give the town a facelift and begin to grow its sustainability efforts. In the future I expect that this new kind of "green" will be a beneficial draw to the town—right after Mount Moriah Cemetery and the casinos' other type of green.
Here are a few highlights:
Mickelson Trail: In 1998, this 109 mile-long former railway bed was repurposed as part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy to create a beautiful, multiuse and all-ages trail (hiking, cycling and horseback riding). I cycled the northern section of the trail from Deadwood to Hill City and was delighted to see that the trail was well-maintained yet highly-trafficked and dotted with recycled plastic benches throughout. The trail has led to the development of several trail runs, triathlons, and bicycle rides that encourage residents to get outdoors and maintain a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
Recycled Plastic Benches
Deadwood Trolley: By reinstating the historical Deadwood Trolley, the downtown area has successfully reduced traffic congestion and the need for parking lots in the real estate-limited area, improved air quality, reduced noise-pollution and cultivated walkability. I was inspired to see the most corpulent of Harley riders ambling around the downtown area. The trolley service fosters sustainable community development as it transports clients from every city hotel and motel. The city also offers "Trolley on the Trail" for those with physical disabilities that limit their use of the local Mickelson Trail (see above).
Deadwood Trolley at the Franklin Hotel
Pumphouse Coffee and Deli: This unassuming little coffee and sandwich shop has not only renovated an old gas station into a restaurant, it is cultivating the use of seasonal and locally-grown foods in their homemade menu offerings. By using fresh and local produce the shop is supporting local farmers and healthy lifestyles.
Deadwood Pumphouse Coffee and Deli
Deadwood Pumphouse Coffee and Deli
Deadwood Street Market: Hosted each Saturday at the Pumphouse Deli, Deadwood has its own local farmer's market. Like other community farmer's markets, the Deadwood Street Market is developing a local, decentralized food production system that helps to teach communities how to be self-sufficient. The presence of local farmer's markets have been proven to reduce community obesity rates across the country.
Deadwood Social Club: This award-winning restaurant sits on the second floor above the Saloon #10 and is reputably the best place to eat in town (I only ate there once and it was the best meal I've had this trip). The Social Club incorporates South Dakota-harvested fresh produce and game into most of its menu items, from pheasant to fresh-caught walleye and trout to fresh veggies.
Chubby Chipmunk: Truffles to die for! Made with love and pizzazz. I'm not sure that there are any organic or sustainably-harvested ingredients in these decadent love-bombs but the owner and chocolatier, Chip, is doing her part to create a sustainable community bound together by their love for and need for chocolate in the form of truffles. She has even installed a vending machine for those late-night attacks. Chip would never want to deny her hand-made and hand-dipped wonders from anyone in her community.
Cindy Gilbert directs MCADâ€™s Sustainable Design Online Program. In this role, Cindy fosters a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative, and collaborative design. She has extensive research experience in the fields of climate change and polar ecology, and has taught several courses and workshops in the fields of biology, sustainability, and biomimicry. Most recently she served 3.5 years as the founding Director of University Education at The Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs including the Biomimicry Professional Certification Program, the annual Biomimicry Education Summits, the Biomimicry Affiliate and Fellows Programs, and the Biomimicry Student Design Challenges.