Good Earth State Park expansion raises concerns

Good Earth State Park expansion raises concerns
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 9:16 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - East of Sioux Falls on the South Dakota-Iowa border is an area of land set aside for all to enjoy. Good Earth State Park at Blood Run will expand in 2024 with the acquisition of the Spring Creek Golf course.

The history of Good Earth State Park runs deep according to Scott Simpson, Director of Parks and Recreation for the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department.

“The significance of this place started somewhere around the 1300s. It was inhabited for approximately 400 years and came to an end somewhere in the early 1700s. It was a culturally significant location for the Native Americans,” said Simpson.

Archeologist Adrien Hannus says the population was normally around a few hundred until it was time to exchange goods near the banks of the Big Sioux River.

“For sort of trade fairs, and so at that point, it may well have grown to several thousand people,” said Hannus.

At that time, there was no state line, only the ancestors of the Ponca, Iowa, and Omaha tribes.

“The burials that were being accomplished for the village, were on both sides of the river,” said Hannus.

“We have a great visitor center that tells the story of the land here and what happened over that 400 years. We do programming every year we’ve got a concert series. There are all kinds of activities that take place here,” said Simpson.

Although the Parks and Wildlife Foundation will make their final purchase of the contract for deed of the Spring Creek Golf course in October of 2024, the Golf Course may continue.

“No, no real plans to show up that very first day and close down the golf course,” said Simpson.

What happens beyond 2025 is uncertain. Hannus received the call when artifacts were discovered in the 90′s when the course was under construction.

“It turns out they stopped the pedal scrapers, and within about half a day, we had flagged about 1000 artifacts. But of course, they were completely out of context because the areas scraped out,” said Hannus.

If the golf course changes require moving any dirt, more artifacts could be unearthed.

“I mean, it would certainly disturb more materials. I mean, there’s no way that it wouldn’t,” said Hannus.

“You know, we wouldn’t turn any dirt that we weren’t approved, that had already been culturally cleared,” said Simpson.

Hannus believes a good option is to restore the land back to a natural state, leaving the earth where it is.

“So you know, native prairie with maybe some interpretive trails or something that,” said Hannus.

“It isn’t about going in there and making the whole thing level there’s a lot of natural topography,” said Simpson. “There’s trees there already. There’s just lots of opportunities for us to do things without, you know, scraping the dirt level.”

While Game Fish and Parks directors review the options of the golf course, right now there are 650 acres and 17 miles of hiking trails to enjoy.

“Really what we’re working on right now is making sure that we’re sparking that interest. We want to get people outdoors we want to get them coming into our locations. We want them to learn about the history of these places. We want them to fall in love with these places,” said Simpson.

Every year the Game Fish and Parks department welcomes representatives of each of the tribes who used to live there. They discuss the use of the park and ideas to share the history with visitors.

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