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Parks Dept. Considers Safety Changes At Falls Park

March 19, 2013, 5:59 PM by Brady Mallory

Parks Dept. Considers Safety Changes At Falls Park

Two drowning deaths at Falls Park could shape the future of Sioux Falls' namesake.

Friends, family and the entire community are mourning the deaths of 16-year-old Madison Wallace and 28-year-old Lyle Eagle Tail, who died while trying to save Wallace's six-year-old brother.  Funeral services for Wallace are Tuesday night and Eagle Tail funeral will be in Rapid City.  

Both of these deaths have created a lot of questions about how we can keep other visitors at Falls Park safe.

In the days following her son Lyle Eagle Tail's death, Margaret Eagle Tail has other lives on her mind.

"I would like the city to start putting up fences there so nobody else will have to go through this either,"  Margaret said.

The Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department, Risk Management and the Fire Department are looking at what can be done differently at Falls Park.

"We take safety very seriously.  We pride ourselves in making sure our facilities are safe for the general public to use.  I think it weighs heavily on the minds of everybody, not only people in our department, but people in the community feel the sadness about it," Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Director Don Kearney said.

Rescue crews recovered the bodies of 28-year-old Eagle Tail and 16-year-old Madison Wallace from the depths of the Big Sioux River after the two had jumped in to save Wallace's six-year-old brother.  Kearney said a fence, safety patrols and even life preservers at the park are not out of the question.

"There's a practical side of things, you know?  How many do you have?  Where are they located?  Does that put other people at risk by being pulled in, potentially?" Kearney said.

Hundreds of thousands visit Falls Park every year.  Despite the high volume, Kearney said the department does not typically receive a lot of calls about safety concerns.

"If there are ways we can improve Falls Park, obviously, we want to take those ideas into consideration," Kearney said.

Kearney said the department is open to public feedback and plans to explore all options. Though there could be multiple answers to questions about safety, Margaret hopes one comes soon.

"There has to be something done about that.  There can't be anymore deaths down by that river," Margaret said.

Kearney says the department is taking the public's concerns and feedback into consideration.

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