This illustration shows what and where the planned Botany and Geology Walkways will be located in front of the facility, near the Super 8 motel parking lot.
By Marcus Heerdt
HOT SPRINGS – The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs recently began work on an outdoor educational area that will feature new walkways focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).
The Mammoth Site, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has been in operation since the 1970s, remains an active paleontological dig site and protects the fossils of more than 60 mammoths as well as other Ice Age mammals. The organization provides educational programming, internships, and other learning activities for the public.
“These walkways (named Botany and Geology) will provide an outdoor educational area to enhance the experience at the Mammoth Site and expand our education, research, and outreach,” said Bethany Cook, Public Relations Coordinator for the organization.
The new walkways are being constructed directly south of The Mammoth Site’s main building, in the area that is presently a large open space between the Site’s parking lots, Super 8 Hotel, and U.S. Highway 18 Bypass.
Dr. Jim Mead, who has been working with The Mammoth Site since the 1970s and is now the Director of Research at the Site, is in charge of the project.
“We are creating a nature trail through time,” said Mead.
The Botany and Geology Walkways will feature interpretive panels, activities for kids, rest benches, and picnic tables in different types of environments such as woodlands, boreal forest, shrubland, and grasslands.
“The area will take on a park-like attitude,” said Mead, “There will be plants, mammals, and birds.”
The plan includes planting different kinds of trees and bushes, creating a pond, moving rocks, and incorporating other natural features into the new outdoor area. The open field currently used for balloon launches will not be affected.
The Mammoth Site plans to incorporate technology into the walkways as well. A smartphone application is under development that visitors will be able to use on the trails for free. Interpretive panels placed along the walkways will have QR codes where users can access more information on their smartphones. Additionally, the smartphone application will ultimately be available in many foreign languages.
The project also calls for an open-air learning center that could host educational speakers, a sinkhole exhibit, and an atlatl field where visitors will be able to test their spear-throwing skills.
Mead explained that the new trails at The Mammoth Site are not only being built for visitors to the area, but also for local residents. The organization hopes that locals will also come to learn, exercise, have lunch, and bring their children to participate in the activities all while enjoying nature.
The project is scheduled to be mostly completed by the summer of 2021, depending on weather and fundraising.
Currently, The Mammoth Site is seeking funding for the project and participating in South Dakota’s Day of Giving, which is Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Site’s fundraising goal is $30,000.
To learn more about The Mammoth Site and its participation in South Dakota’s Day of Giving call (605) 745-6017 or visit www.mammothsite.org.