Sustainability Alive in Deadwood, South Dakota

About the MA Program

Deadwood, South Dakota, is the final resting place for Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and has more buried residents than unburied ones, yet it is unearthing new ways to breathe 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 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. I expect in the future 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.

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 walk ability. I was inspired to see the most corpulent of Harley riders ambling around the downtown area. The trolley service fosters sustainability community development as it transports clients from every city hotel and motel. The city offers also offers “Trolley on the Trail” for those with physical disabilities that limit their use of the local Mickelson Trail (see above).

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 Street Market: Hosted each Saturday at the Pumphouse Deli a local farmer’s market happens on Saturdays. Like other community farmer’s markets, the Deadwood Street Market is developing a local, decentralized food production system that help to teach communities how to be self sufficient and 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 walley 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 / Former Director

Cindy is founder and director of Alula Consulting which specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects for educational institutions, non-profits, and corporations. Recent clients include The Lemelson Foundation, VentureWell, Green Building Research Institute, University of Montana, PBS, Silverback Films, and more. Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry.

Cindy was the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program for 7.5 years which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fostered a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. Before MCAD, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the professional certification program, annual education summits, affiliate and fellows programs, and design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana. Please contact her through LinkedIn.