Have you ever wondered: Why were the trees cut down across from Rotary Park in Sioux Falls?

Published: Jul. 3, 2018 at 1:14 PM CDT
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The new Rotary Park is expected to be complete the first week of October. The entire park is being moved from the east side to the west side of the Big Sioux River because of a large construction project that will begin in 2019 in that area of 26th Street and Southeastern Avenue in Sioux Falls.

Crews are in the process of building a pedestrian bridge across the river to connect the old Rotary Park to the new one on the west side of the river. The dirt area where the new park will be constructed used to be full of about 250 trees until a public works crew cleared them out over the winter.

"The site was pretty heavily wooded with about 85% of the trees were ash trees, green ash trees," Chad Kucker said, who is an associate at confluence, a company that is a part of the design process for the project. "There were also a few cottonwoods, silver maples, siberian elms and box elder."

The trees were recycled by Mueller Pallets out of Tea and the State Penitentiary.

"A few trees along the fence line along the interstate were saved, but for the most part, we had to get rid of all of them because they weren't that great to start with," Kucker said.

The new rotary park will have a new play structure, parking lot, restroom, shelter and even a new entrance. Moving the park makes room for the new bridge that will start being built in 2019 over the railroad tracks. That bridge blocks the current access to the park.

"If we build a bridge over the railroad tracks, we eliminate access to Rotary Park. So that is why we're rebuilding Rotary Park," James Unruh said, who is a senior project manager at HDR Inc.

The city of Sioux Falls did a study on this area of 26th Street and Southeastern Avenue in 2002.

"These ramps back up very badly almost every day on the Interstate," Unruh said. "There's 28,000 vehicles per day that travel on 26th Street and about 3 to 5 trains per day. That really disrupts the traffic on 26th Street."

26th Street will be widened to five lanes plus turn lanes from the I-229 interchange to Southeastern Avenue.

"The crashes, especially in this section right here, between these two ramps was probably about 30% above the statewide crash average for what you would expect for that," Unruh said.

In order to make all of these changes though, an environmental assessment was done federally to make sure there was no significant impact to the area. This entire construction project, including the park and road construction, is expected to cost about $42 million. It's all expected to be complete by November of 2020.

If you have any questions you want Vanessa to dig into, email her at vgomez@ksfy.com.