S.D. Mayor Suggests Park Safety Upgrades After Insurer Commissioned Review

June 22, 2018

Sioux Falls, S.D., officials are proposing a designated viewing area and other safety improvements at a park where a 5-year-old drowned three months ago.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken has recommended that Falls Park implement viewing platforms, railings, additional safety assessments and more safety signage at park entrances, the Argus Leader reported. The move follows a review of the safety protocols in place when a child died in March after falling into the Big Sioux River.

Maggie Zaiger, 5, marks the third person to have drowned at the park since 2013.

The review’s recommendations could “effectively reduce the risks created by extreme conditions without diminishing the natural beauty of the park” or putting a financial burden on taxpayers, said James Moore, an attorney with the firm hired to conduct the safety analysis.

The review, commissioned by the city’s insurance company, found that foam buildup in the Big Sioux River near a pedestrian bridge obscures the edge of rocks and the steep drop into the water.

Building a viewing area and safety railings could allow visitors to experience the rapid water while deterring them from being on the rocks, according to the report. The viewing platforms and railings could be constructed this year and cost about $300,000, the review estimated.

The proposed signage should also warn visitors that foam may obscure rocks and not to cross the railing and platform.

The review also suggested hiring a third-party consulting firm to conduct a formal, on-site risk assessment at the park.

T.J. Nelson, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the administration will recommend using surplus money from the 2017 budget to begin the safety enhancements.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will brief City Council on the review Tuesday. It’s up to the council to decide whether to pursue any of the recommendations.

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