Eye On KELOLAND: Palisades flower power

Eye on KELOLAND

GARRETSON, SD (KELO) — The summer camping crowds are starting to thin-out at Palisades State Park near Garretson. But visitors can still take in plenty of breathtaking scenery at the park as the change of seasons rapidly approaches. That includes a landscaping project that’s part of a multi-million dollar upgrade and expansion to the park.

Big changes are taking root at Palisades State Park.

“It’s been quite a bit of work and to see our work pay off has been pretty rewarding,” District Park Supervisor Luke Dreckman said.

The park is now adorned with new wildflowers, native tall grasses and trees, planted earlier this spring. The fresh vegetation provides a colorful palette to the park.

“We have over 35 different species of flowers, from reds, pinks, orange, yellows, just a variety of colors,” Dreckman said.

And the wildlife is responding to these new additions.

“The bees really showed up, there’s bees everywhere,” Dreckman said.

The flowers are blooming in what was once a farm field, that’s now been folded into park property. It’s part of an expansion to make Palisades more user-friendly to both people and wildlife.

“We’ve seen quite a few bees and butterflies flying around while typically you wouldn’t see a whole lot of with it being corn or soybeans. Seen some deer that have been bedding down here, some more pheasant chicks this spring, in the summer,” Dreckman said.

The habitat improvements will provide cover and food for the many animals that pass through the park. But the landscaping is also attracting campers to the park.

“It just makes the camping just that much more enjoyable with nature and taking care of the environment out here more welcoming, more interesting things to walk by, everything to take in,” Heather Coombs of Sioux Falls said.

Considering just how dry it’s been this summer, the park staff is amazed at how well these new plantings have taken off.

“We drilled it this spring and we’ve done some maintenance to it coming out and doing some weeding, mowing, keeping the weeds down so that what we want to grow, can grow,” Dreckman said.

Wooden stakes are sprouting from the soil in the midst of the wildflowers. They’re markings of future development in the park, including modern cabins that will be built in the farm field that offer an inviting view for the cabin dwellers.

“Basically, what those will consist of is a two-bedroom, one bath with a little kitchenette area. It’s kind of on a hilltop here why you get a good look of the Splitrock Creek,” Dreckman said.

The hill also overlooks an oat field: the future site of a new campground in Palisades.

“It’s going to take our 34 camping units to 109, so going to be expanding on camping quite a bit,” Dreckman said.

That’s nearly three times the camping available now. The demand far outpaces the current supply. Palisades saw a big jump in visitor numbers this year and at times in the past, the park has had to turn away people. So more campsites, cabins, parking and trails will all be part of the building boom that follows the flowering bloom.

The five-year improvement project at Palisades costs $8.3 million. It’s funded through money from the state, federal grants and private donations. You can find out what else is included in the project by clicking here.

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