The Yankton area trail network is on the right path with a new expansion between the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium (GPNFH) and the Chief White Crane campground.

Once the new hiking/biking trail is installed, visitors to the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area will be able to bike or walk all the way around Lake Yankton, Shane Bertsch, district park supervisor for the South Department of Game, Fish and Parks (SD GFP), told the Press & Dakotan.

Preparations for the trail, which winds through a wooded area along the lake’s northeast shoreline, began last year.

“We got all the trees cleared last fall and we finished removing the stumps this spring,” he said. “In early May, a gravel base will cover the trail.”

Paving of the new trail is expected to wrap up in time for the Fourth of July weekend, Bertsch said.

“This path is kind of unique because it goes across U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) property which is leased by the Fish & Wildlife Service (F&W) for the fish hatchery,” he said. “We had to get approval from both agencies.”

Jeff Powell, former GPNFH project leader, was instrumental in obtaining approval for the project, Bertsch said.

“While a recreational trail did not necessarily fit within the scope of the management objectives of the two federal agencies, we were able to come together to create something that was for the greater good,” he said.

The trail upgrade will provide safe and enjoyable recreation to the hatchery and aquarium from Chief White Crane, Nick Starzl, acting GPNFH hatchery manager, told the Press & Dakotan.

“The connection trail is cooperative,” he said. “Part of the existing hatchery trail which borders the northeast side of Lake Yankton will be upgraded to black top to facilitate 100% connectivity for biking, strollers and hiking, etc. from Chief White Crane through federal property to Pierson Ranch.”

The 1.4-mile addition will begin just west of the fish hatchery parking lot near the foot bridge and run south around Lake Yankton.

Trail funding was provided by a grant from the Recreation Trails Program (RTP), which comes to the states through the Federal Highway Administration and the gas tax to fund motorized and non-motorized trail projects, according to Randy Kittle, GFP grants coordinator.

The $360,000 grant will reimburse up to 80% of approved project cost, he said.  

“It is exciting to know that users will now have access to new areas as they experience the trail around Lake Yankton in its entirety,” Bertsch said.

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