The Minnehaha County Commission is doing something about the safety concerns county employees have brought about a parking lot near a downtown Sioux Falls park. Within a week or two, you could see a chain-link fence separating the lot from Van Eps Park.
Van Eps Park is just a few feet south of where many county employees park. As KELOLAND News has reported, police officers are there often breaking up fights and dealing with people drinking at the park. County Commissioner Jeff Barth said several workers have complained about being harassed for money or cigarettes. One morning, an employee got an even bigger shock before heading into work. The employee found a woman lying on the pavement of this parking lot.
"Someone had stolen her wheelchair. She had no legs, no pants, and she had been laying there all night. It's a pretty dismal situation," Barth said.
Barth believes this is a product from on-going issues and violence with the adjacent park.
"People worry about people standing around their vehicles while they are away from them," Barth said.
A chain-link fence is set to go up on the south side of the parking lot. It will not enclose the park, or keep anyone fenced in. Barth hopes the barricade is enough to help stop some of the reported issues. As the Commission moves forward with this plan, Barth said there is a lot to consider because he knows some of the individuals who hang out here may not have anywhere else to go.
"There are people out there with addiction issues, people with criminal issues. There are people with mental issues, and there are people who are friends with those people. They have some place to go," Barth said.
Both the City and the County have been focusing attention on the complaints that stem from the park.
"This has always been going on and now this sort of underbelly is more visible to the community," Barth said.