Congress hears plan for visitor center at Minuteman Missile Site

This unarmed test missle can be viewed where a nuclear missile once stood at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept of the Interior)The U.S. Senate’s National Parks Subcommittee heard testimony Thursday on legislation that would transfer 25 acres of National Forest Service land to the National Park Service for the construction of a visitor center at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

Since opening in 2004, the site’s visitor center has been in a small, temporary, modular structure. From the visitor center, visitors must drive a short distance to see the site’s underground launch-control facility and missile silo.

The legislation that would set aside land for a permanent visitor center is sponsored by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. He said in a news release Thursday that the legislation "received a favorable hearing."

"As the visits to the Minuteman Missile continue to grow, we need to construct a visitor center that allows more people to learn about the important history of this site," Johnson said in the release. 

The site was designated as part of the National Park system in 1999. Visits grew from less than 5,000 people in 2004 to more 30,000 people in 2008. 

Johnson’s bill to adjust the boundary of the site would allow for the construction of a permanent visitor center and administrative facility near the location of the temporary visitor center, at Interstate 90’s Exit 131. That’s the Cactus Flat exit, which also leads to the east entrance of Badlands National Park. The exit is about 20 miles east of the city of Wall and its famous Wall Drug.

Johnson’s news release says the launch-control facility and missile silo that make up the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site were preserved to illustrate the history of the Cold War and the role the Air Force’s Minuteman II Missile defense system played in efforts to preserve world peace.  

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Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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