SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — About one million people use the bike trail system each year in Sioux Falls, said Don Kearney, the city’s director of parks and recreation.
The bike system gets multiple types of use but the majority of the users are bicyclists, Kearney said.
The city has about a 29-mile bike trail system; it’s 35-miles if you include a six-mile stretch from Interstate 90 along Veterans Parkway. Another 1.4 miles will be added this year in phase 1 of the Cherry Creek Trail Corridor.
A ground-breaking is scheduled for Tuesday for the trail section that will connect Legacy Park to Family Park.
This project will create approximately 1.4 miles of trail connecting Legacy Park to Family Park. It will also provide the Hayward Park neighborhood an access point to the trail system through a connection at Songbird Street.
Kearney said the use of the city’s bike trail system has grown each year. The city’s 2015 Sioux Falls Bike Plan said bicycle use increased by 400% in the last 15 years.
The city is using the 2015 plan as a guide. The Cherry Creek extension is included in the plan.
The city’s 2017-2021 capital improvement plan includes a proposal for a Cherry Creek trail spur development phase. It was part of a $1.9 million proposed bike trail system project of multiple phases.
While a bike trail system expansion may be included in a plan or even in a capital improvement budget, it may take several years before it happens.
Four major trail priorities were recommended in the city’s 2001 bicycle plan. Some have been completed or started. Those four projects were: the paving of the last unpaved segment of the Big Sioux loop around Joe Foss Field; a segment parallel to the existing trail on the west side of the Big Sioux between Yankton Trail Park and Maple Street; a northeast connection between the Big Sioux loop and Great Bear Recreation Area; and a west side trail along Skunk Creek and tributary drainages from Legacy Park to Benson Road.
The city developed another detailed trail network in 2007, which included the west side or the Cherry Creek system.
“…building the trail is the easy part,” Kearney said.
Getting the land and rights of way needed to develop the trail is the tougher part, Kearney said.
Kearney said as the city of Sioux Falls grows and as more streets are added, the need to connect bike trails and make bike and pedestrian areas in and around streets is considered.
The city works with developers and property owners and when highways are involved, with the state of South Dakota, to buy land or secure easements for bike and pedestrian areas, including bike trails, he said.
Throughout at least the past 15 years, the city has conducted surveys on parks and recreation needs or wants.
The City of Sioux Falls Recreation Needs Assessment completed in April 2011 showed that 75% of the
respondents felt that more bike/walking trails were needed, according to a city capital improvement plan and a bike plan.
Another proposed extension to the bike trail system got a boost in June 2020 when the city bought 20 acres of land along the Big Sioux River. The land is north of Rice Street and adjacent to Bahnson Avenue. It will be used to connect Falls Park to Great Bear Recreation Area, city officials said.
The land is in the Big Sioux River corridor. A connection from Falls Park to Lien Park has already been completed.
Attention to a bike trail system doesn’t stop at the Sioux Falls city limits.
Several plans and reports from over the years include the need to consider expansion to cities such as Harrisburg and Tea, for example.
“Our plan is to have a regional trail network,” Kearney said. The network would connect Sioux Falls to surrounding towns.
For example, in 2009, the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) published a bicycle plan for the metropolitan area, establishing regional trails linking the Sioux Falls trail system to Big Sioux Recreation Area and Brandon, Tea, and Harrisburg as priorities, according to an MPO study.