New nature park adds wellness to Brookings

Jordan Smith Managing Editor


 What was once a landfill now offers residents of Brookings a place to get outdoors. 

The Dakota Nature Park, located on 22nd Avenue, was originally the city landfill, which closed in the mid 90’s. The city then capped off the garbage and dug four lakes, with the intention to turn it in to a nature park. 

For a while it was just empty land and in 2007-2008 a family offered a donation to kick-start the development of the park, according to Parks and Recreation Director Peter Colson. The donation was initially given with the intent to enhance youth fishing. 

Brookings Parks and Recreation Department collaborated with Big Muddy Workshop, a landscape architecture firm out of Omaha, Neb. and worked for about a year and a half on the master plan for the park. The family gave another donation and another citizen in the city pitched in about a year and a half ago. 

The park has been created with the help of feedback from the community. Public hearings have offered opportunities for community input and the developers have taken that feedback to develop a master plan, according to City Manager Jeff Weldon. 

Public input meetings about the park began a few years ago and one of the major groups that showed up was the mountain biking community, and those people wanted to see mountain bike trails in the park, according to Rob Rasmussen, owner of Sioux River Bicycles and Fitness. There are currently four miles of paved trails and in the winter there will be five miles of groomed trail for cross country skiing and other outdoor activities. 

Big Muddy Workshop held all of the public hearings to take in to account the ideas of the city. People that showed up included parents with seven kids and young bikers, which were the biggest turnout. Many of these people requested trails for biking. 

Currently four miles of the trail are paved and there will be about two miles of unpaved trail. Also in the works is a terrain park for mountain bikers Rasmussen said. Fishing options were enhanced to include more trails and docks with water access. According to Weldon, Game Fish and Parks has since stocked the ponds with fish. 

The park includes trails and docks along with more trails being added and park shelters, benches, bathroom facilities and landscaping improvements. A central part of the park is the Outdoor Adventure Center of South Dakota. There is an archery range, 50 shooting positions and a small caliber gun range. In the building 


 located at the park, there is a large classroom, which can hold about 50-60 people, an atrium that can hold about 200 people and a four-seasons porch, among other things. 

In order to access the center, people must commute in by bike or foot. “It adds wellness,” Colson said.

Added to the park will be mountain bike trail with a mountain bike skills park, which will include things such as log jumps. The park is ADA accessible. There is also going to be a shelter built to accommodate 30-35 people located in the park.

In a few weeks, there will be a soft opening for the nature park, with a hard opening to follow. There will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the nature center. The date is undetermined as of now, as they fell behind in paving and other construction due to the weather.

The mission of the center is for education and programming to focus on nature and getting citizens outdoors. The center is also meant to be a social place with a two-sided fireplace that is meant to be a social area where people can go relax,” Colson said. 

The building is made of Douglas fir timber framing and is geothermal. 

“It is as green as we could make it,” Colson said. 

It will not be available for rentals such as weddings and family reunions, just for outdoor activities.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield gives a grant, based on the amount of successful field goal shots at SDSU athletic events, to the city. This money has gone toward mostly outfitting the center with kayaks and other outdoor amenities for the use of the city. The city Parks and Recreation department receives between $12,000 and $15,000 per year to buy quality equipment to promote wellness in the community.

All equipment available for rental will be housed at the nature center and include kayaks and snowshoes. During the winter there will be four miles of groomed trails, Colson said.

“We want to make it a passive park system, with walkways, paths and more laidback options,” Weldon said.

The idea of the park is to preserve nature in an urbanizing community and allow citizens access to nature without having to travel great distances, according to Weldon. The idea for the nature park came from the previous parks and rec director. The project has been slow and incremental.

The purpose of the nature park is to promote wellness and also allow for more activities for people from out of town to have to do. 

“It is one more drop in the bucket that makes Brookings a unique community,” Colson said.