Citizens cite trails, neighborhood parks, outdoor adventure as future needs

July 9, 2019

The results are in.

Almost 900 Sioux Falls citizens who responded to a survey by the Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Department named trail development, neighborhood parks, swimming pools and outdoor adventure fitness opportunities as some of the higher priority investments they want to see from the city in coming years.

The mail and electronic survey conducted in the past several months is part of the data-gathering phase of the department’s upcoming comprehensive system plan.

Representatives presented the results today to the Sioux Falls City Council and now will move forward to the next phase of the comprehensive plan.

The plan, which is set to be formulated before the end of the year, will determine what the department focuses on in the next five years.

During the assessment process, the parks department — together with Confluence and Indianapolis-based PROS Consulting — conducted 14 community and staff focus groups, 16 stakeholder interviews, three community forums and sent out both a statistically valid and electronic survey.

The last time the department conducted a statistically valid survey was in 2011. While some answers were consistent, others changed enough to surprise parks department specialist Tory Miedema.

“Any trail system was way up there high on the list of things that we should invest in,” he said. “And we were expecting that.”

On a national scale, 68 percent of respondents saw a need for more walking and hiking trails. Sioux Falls residents narrowly missed that number, coming in with a 67 percent demand.

Adult fitness and outdoor adventure programming were two needs that jumped in demand, which Miedema said was different from the 2011 results but not surprising considering the nationwide increased interest in healthy living.

In Sioux Falls, 68 percent of survey respondents saw a need for more small neighborhood parks. The national average for that same answer is 57 percent.

Given the data gathered, the priorities for investment are walking and hiking trails, neighborhood parks, natural areas and wildlife habitats, paved bike trails, outdoor and indoor swimming pools, off-leash dog parks, large community parks and an indoor playground.

In late June, Mayor Paul Ten Haken released his capital improvement plan, or CIP, for 2020-24. The CIP allocated 9 percent of its 2020 spending plan to parks, with the rest going to streets, other departments and to service debt on the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The overall proposed spending on parks for the next five years is less than what was planned one year ago.

“As a result of shifting additional dollars toward more roadway needs, my administration had to heavily scrutinize other areas of the capital program and make difficult decisions. As a result, there will be fewer dollars toward some park projects,” TenHaken said in a letter accompanying his proposed capital budget.

“Certain projects have been scaled down, and some policies have changed. In future years as the economy grows and we catch up on road construction needs, we can restore some or all of these dollars to the Parks and Recreation section of the CIP.”

The parks department will look to private donations to supplement the decreased CIP allocation. Currently, it is looking for a donor for part of a new chairlift needed at Great Bear Recreation Park. The project is halfway through the design process and is still on track to be implemented next summer, hinging on donor money.

The next step in the comprehensive system plan is to draft a master plan that assesses and addresses five elements, said PROS Consulting founder and president Leon Younger:

  • Current property and future land acquisition, including whether updates or renovations are needed.
  • Programming needs.
  • Recreation facilities.
  • Marketing and communication.
  • Future financing for the parks system.

The ultimate goal of the plan, Miedema said, is to improve the quality of life for Sioux Falls residents.

“The bottom line of this is livability,” Miedema said. “It’s creating a parks system that everybody can identify with and they feel themselves in the plan, so they know how to use it.”

To learn more about the parks master planning process and share input, click here.

Citizens cite trails, neighborhood parks, outdoor adventure as future needs

The results are in. Here’s what Sioux Falls residents say they want to see as the parks system plans for its future.

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