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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

The Eco Prayer Park at Trinity Lutheran Church, Rapid City

Plans for the Trinity Eco Prayer Park.
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Some retreat writers might recognize Ken Steinken's name from seeing it in the house journal. During the years when I didn't live on the ranch, Ken came often to Homestead House, at least once riding his bicycle twenty-some miles from Rapid City, to write in the retreat solitude. He signed the house journal, saying he'd tried to erase all testosterone from the premises before a women's writing retreat started.

Ken's new project is to help establish an Eco Prayer Park on one fourth of a city block now vacant on the corner of Fourth and Saint Joseph Streets, beside Trinity Lutheran Church in Rapid City.

"Our goal is to create a peaceful, natural place downtown that will preserve open space and enhance the vitality of the downtown experience," Ken says.

The park will contain a circular path leading visitors past four zones representing different biomes: Black Hills, midgrass prairie, shortgrass prairie and wetlands. The park will be practical as well, with swales that will conserve stormwater runoff from surrounding asphalt parking lots, allowing it to seep slowly into the ground instead of entering the city's storm-sewer system. Designed to contain water from a 100-year flood event, the park will have no standing water elements. It will provide examples of native species that local property owners can use in their own water-conserving landscaping.

Here's how Ken Steinken explains the name of the park:

The Name: Trinity Eco Prayer Park
* Trinity -- connects the park to the Trinity Lutheran Church
* Eco Park -- a park that uses and encourages others to use sustainable landscaping
* Prayer Park -- a peaceful place downtown to pray and reflect
* Eco Prayer -- a prayer for the care of the planet; a plea to work with nature instead of against it

I was a little concerned that the word "Eco" might be a little too political; it's a goofy, trendy word but it allows us to avoid "Sustainable" which is clunky; and "Natural" is just too vanilla. The word "Prayer" has been overused and abused, and may unsettle folks on both ends of the political spectrum, so it sets up a creative tension that I like. The official name collects all the elements, but perhaps the park will be best-known simply as Trinity Park, a place to reflect on how we relate to God, one another, and the planet.


The project is planned for completion by 2014, in time for the church's 100th anniversary celebration. Ken hopes most costs will be covered by in-kind donations from church and community members and volunteer labor. "We need every kind of help imaginable," he says.

I'll be donating plugs of buffalo grass and other native grasses as well as any wildflower seeds the project needs and can find on my land.

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For more information:

Website for the Trinity Eco Prayer Park. This is a bare-bones Google Group website that has newsletter-type updates on the park and links for further information.

Read an article about the park in the Rapid City Journal. Includes a photo of the existing bare lot and depictions of what the park will look like.

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Why Allow Uranium Mining?

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Why should the residents of South Dakota and eastern Wyoming allow uranium mining? Why should we allow a group of small Canadian companies to mine uranium in our neighborhood, potentially damaging our water, our economy and our health far into the future?

Uranium is used for nuclear power and to make nuclear weapons. The largest current markets for uranium for nuclear power are China and India. The companies that want to mine uranium in the Black Hills region are mostly small, Canadian companies.

According to information presented by the Clean Water Alliance, at least four companies are now active in the Black Hills, intending to do in situ leach uranium mining, in which leaching solutions are pumped underground into uranium deposits. The solution dissolves the uranium which is then pumped back to the surface for further processing. In situ leach mining can only be done directly in groundwater.

At least 169 abandoned uranium mines exist from previous mining in the Black Hills; most have never been cleaned up.

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For more information: (or to donate)

the Clean Water Alliance website

write to PO Box 591, Rapid City, SD 57709

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Cool Water Hula

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I urge everyone to visit this site; the Cool Water Hula exemplifies my favorite kind of political action about difficult topics: it’s filled with good will, humor, and beauty. The Cool Water Hula originated in 2000 to call attention to the biggest superfund site, the Berkeley Pit, filled with contaminated water from one of the nation’s many bouts of energy-related greed. The Cool Water Hula, as our friend Kristi Hager explains, tells a new story.

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Background:
The Berkeley Pit was once part of a huge open pit copper mine near Butte, Montana. When mining shut down in 1982 the pit was allowed to fill with water (groundwater and surface runoff). The water is toxic from leaching through the mined area. In the fall of 1995 a large flock of migrating snow geese landed on the contaminated water of the Berkeley Pit. 342 died.

Butte artist Kristi Hager combined the Hawaiian sacred hula dance with the song "Cool Water" made famous by Sons of the Pioneers (you know the song-- "All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water, cool water . . .”). In July, 2000, and again in July, 2010, she gathered a group of people on the rim of the pit, all wearing white shirts and water-blue fabric sarongs, to sing and dance the Cool Water Hula.

"It's a prayer -- to teach us to care for water," Hager told Marga Lincoln, writer for the Ravalli Republic newspaper in June, 2010.

For more information:
Cool Water Hula blog with YouTube video demonstration
June, 2010 article on the Ravalli Republic website

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