Pick a park: How Sioux Falls chooses park locations, park improvements

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you live in Sioux Falls, the city wants a neighborhood park within a half-mile of your home.

Don Kearney, the director of parks and recreation for the city, said the half-mile is a guideline and sometimes, it’s not always met. Yet, the half-mile is the goal to help parks to be accessible to residents.

“Typically, you and walk or bike with the half-mile distance,” Kearney said.

The city’s land area in square miles was 73 miles in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but the city has grown in physical size and population since then.

The city estimates its 2020 population at 195,850. World Population Review estimated the city’s land size as 78 miles for 2021.

The city has at least 80 neighborhood and other park areas listed on its parks and recreation website.

The SFPR system has more than 3,100-acres of park land, made up of 80 parks, 11 undeveloped sites, five community centers, four enlarged gymnasiums, three support sites, three golf courses, six ice rinks, five outdoor pools and one indoor aquatic center.

The half-mile target is part of the city’s park planning. So is a target size of at least five acres, Kearney said.

Fives acres for a neighborhood park means there is enough room for a playground and other amenities as well such as practice and play areas for sports, Kearney said.

“We work with athletic associations in town on issues of access to practice fields or games,” Kearney said.

Soccer fields at Sherman Park. City of Sioux Falls photo.

Sherman Park, Harmodon Park and Kenny Anderson Park are three examples of parks with league sports fields for games or practice.

The parks and recreation department also works closely with city’s planning and zoning department to try an anticipate neighborhood park needs created by planned development.

As Sioux Falls’ population is growing, the city is not only growing outward with single-family houses but also multi-family housing.

The city has had more than 1,500 permits for apartments from January through September, according to the building permit data recently released by the City of Sioux Falls.

“Sometimes, the land just isn’t available or the available land is not enough for us to be interested in and we end up passing on it,” Kearney said of adding a park.

Having “dozens and dozens of postage size parks makes it hard…,” Kearney said. That many small neighborhood parks creates difficulties for maintenance, he said.

In some cases, the private developer of multi-family housing developments will create parks within the developments, Kearney said.

The parks and recreation department avoids creating neighborhood parks on arterial streets, or through streets, he said.

“We want them included within the neighborhood,” Kearney said.

Sports fields may be included in a neighborhood park but the city has also included other features.

Southern Vistas Park. City of Sioux Falls photo.

“Walking loops, there is more emphasis on that,” Kearney said. Walking loops allow adults to walk while being able to watch their children on the playground, he said.

The city also works with school districts on park development.

Sioux Falls has worked with schools on co-development since the 1970s. In 2021 that also includes working with the Harrisburg and Brandon Valley school districts as both have schools in the Sioux Falls city limits.

“We have a great relationship with schools to co-locate…,” Kearney said. The city and the schools share the playground, other park areas and the parking lot.

Willow Ridge Park at 7900 E. Willowwood Street and near Fred Assam Elementary School is one example of the city and school partnership.

Willow Ridge Park. City of Sioux Falls photo.

Falls Park in downtown Sioux Falls is getting attention right now because a city committee chose a winner in the park’s future design contest.

Although Falls Park will get continued attention, Kearney said it won’t be at the expense of the other city parks.

“The vast majority of our capital investment is to maintain our existing parks,” Kearney said. The department has a playground equipment replacement plan, trail improvement plan and maintenance plans for parking lots, for example.

The department’s 2020-2024 plan includes “Update existing neighborhood parks where needed and develop new neighborhood parks in underserved areas of the city to achieve an equitable level of service for neighborhood parks across the city.”

The city’s 2021 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) also includes park projects such as improvements to baseball fields at Harmodon Park.

Mayor Paul TenHaken’s 2022-2026 CIP includes $700,000 in 2026 for parks in underserved areas.

The CIP also includes money for park roads and parking lot improvements and other projects.

The department also recently completed a comprehensive plan.

“We looked at equity and how we were meeting the half-mile service area,” Kearney said. “We want to make sure that residents have access.”

More parks are likely in the city’s future as it continues to grow,

Kearney said one example is the growth near South Dakota Highway 100 that could prompt an additional park that would be more of a regional park for Sioux Falls and nearby residents.

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