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Mitchell, S.D., Eyes New State Park Nearby

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February 20, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Corn Palace, the major tourism draw in Mitchell, S.D.

Editor's Note: The following editorial appeared in the Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D., and concerns a proposal for a new state park near that city located in the southeast part of the state.

With one of the largest and best outdoors-themed retail stores in the state (Cabela’s), a location along Interstate 90, and a major tourist attraction (the Corn Palace), Mitchell seems the ideal place for a nearby state park.

In fact, with Mitchell’s already thriving tourism and outdoors industries, we can think of few other places in South Dakota, outside of the Black Hills and Sioux Falls, where a state park and a city would be more mutually beneficial. Hundreds of thousands of people already stop in Mitchell every summer to visit the Corn Palace, so a steady stream of potential park visitors is nearly guaranteed.

And if a state park were available for camping, more of those visitors might take the opportunity to spend a night. Beyond that, it would be a great addition to the quality of life for the more than 15,000 residents of the Mitchell area.

This map of Mitchell, S. D., shows the proximity of Lake Mitchell to the downtown. The lake is a possible site for a new state park but not the only one, according to officials. Map courtesy of the Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau.

To us, it’s a match made in heaven. A no-brainer. Mitchell should have a state park or recreation area in its immediate vicinity.

That’s the easy part. The tough part is, where?

The possibility of a Mitchell-area park received its first serious discussion in 2011 when Gov. Dennis Daugaard held a Capital for a Day event in Mitchell. The idea of locating a park at Lake Mitchell was raised, but the talk quickly fizzled.

We wanted to know if the proposal was dead, so a Daily Republic reporter recently called South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Jeff Vonk. Surprisingly, Vonk said the idea is still alive, and a feasibility study could be ordered for the 2014 budget year.

We have our doubts that a suitable spot for a state park will be found along Lake Mitchell, which is highly developed with housing along some of its shoreline.

But there are some lake sites worth exploring, and we think a feasibility study should be undertaken. As we’ve noted in the past, there is no major city in South Dakota that is farther away from a state park than Mitchell, and that’s an injustice our local and state leaders should address. A feasibility study is a good place to start.

Hopefully, though, state and local officials don’t limit their scope to Lake Mitchell alone.

Are there spots along Firesteel Creek, upstream from the lake, that might be good sites for a park or recreation area?

How about the man-made lakes in the area? Maybe a prairie-focused site? How about building a park around a historic site, like the remains of Fort James, which have been excavated on the James River below Mitchell?

Creativity and open-mindedness will be needed in the study of this idea for it to ever have a chance of materializing.

With that proviso, we wholeheartedly encourage local and state officials to proceed.

 

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