South Dakota’s newest state park is entering a new phase in its building boom.   The visitor center under construction at Good Earth State Park at Blood Run is almost entirely enclosed, just in time for the arrival of winter.

Good Earth State Park at Blood Run has so much to offer visitors outdoors.  But soon, the park will try to steer those same visitors indoors.  The sounds of construction echo through the serene landscape where this new 11,000 square foot visitor center will serve as a brick-and-mortar trailhead into the park.

“You see that nice, warm wood when you come in, high ceilings, an open, inviting space,” Project Manager Mike Ralston said.

The visitor center will be a welcoming destination to those who want to learn more about the park’s past as a vital trading center for Native Americans centuries ago.

“I think it’s going to be important for them to come into the building and get that information and we’re also going to encourage them to experience the area and get a feel for the history and just what a neat place it is,” Park Manager Jim Henning said.

Construction of the $5-million visitor center is paid through state funds and private donations.  It will feature geo-thermal heating, an interpretive center, classrooms and even a movie theater.

“It’s so exciting.  You’re building a building and making sure every detail is down, so it’s been a very smooth process,” Ralston said.

But the smooth construction process ran into some rough edges with the season’s first winter storm.  Snow, pushed along by 50 mile and hour winds, blew into the building, creating drifts amid the building material.

“To me, there haven’t been a lot of hiccups; it’s just dealing with what Mother Nature gives us,” Henning said.

The snowmelt has created some muddy spots at the site, but construction is moving ahead as scheduled.  The visitor center’s grand opening is planned for mid-May.

There was some concern that construction might spook the animals here in the park.  But so far, it appears the critters don’t seem to mind.

“I come down here after hours some nights just to see how things are and there’s a herd of deer hanging out around here.  To my knowledge, it hasn’t really affected the wildlife too much,” Henning said.

Henning says new landscaping that includes trees and grasses planted near the visitor center will improve habitat for the wildlife.   Meanwhile those involved in the building’s construction see their work as more than just another development project.  To them, the visitor center represents a window into their own future; a family destination that will span generations to come.    

“I can take my future grandchildren here; see what the park’s all about.  Something that will be here for years to come and it’s a very exciting thing to say you’re involved with,” Ralston said.

Good Earth State Park’s rich culture, history and scenery will converge at the doorstep of this brand new visitor center.

Another project that’s just been completed at Good Earth State Park is a new paved entrance that will give visitors easier access into the park.