State acquires 236 more acres for Good Earth park
By DIRK LAMMERS
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The last remaining forestland within the Blood Run National Historic Landmark is now part of Good Earth State Park at Blood Run.
The 236-acre property near Sioux Falls was secured Friday thanks to a grant from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program and fundraising by the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
Nature trails cross through a large oak forest in the tract, which also has rolling hills, flood plains and riverside bluffs that stretch along 1.6 miles of the Big Sioux River. The picturesque acreage bordering Iowa was used by thousands of Oneota Indians into the early 1700s.
Land for Good Earth has been pieced together over the years through a partnership between the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Forest Service.
The latest tract is part of the former Buzz Nelson farmstead that The Conservation Fund has held for two years, purchased in 2011 as a temporary measure while the state shored up its funding, said Clint Miller, the fund's Midwest project director.
The U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program set aside $1.2 million for the project in 2013.
“This is really our final piece and really the core part of the park that is going to become Good Earth State Park,” Miller said.
Good Earth, which officially became a state park last July, now includes 625 acres in South Dakota and 200 acres across border owned by the state of Iowa, State Parks and Recreation Director Doug Hofer said.
“We recorded close to 20,000 visitors last year, which is a lot of people for a park that isn't even developed and doesn't have improved access,” Hofer said. “Most of them were hikers and people out there enjoying the scenic beauty of the area. That number will grow as we make improvements in the park.”
The improvements will include work on the hiking trails and better road access. Hofer says the department expects to break ground on a visitors’ center this fall or next spring.
Money for those projects will come from a $2 million appropriation by the state Legislature, another $1 million from federal grants and GF&P funds and a $2 million gift from the Robert and Rita Elmen Foundation.
“We've come a long way from where were a few years ago,” Hofer said.
The Oneota culture wasn't a single tribe but conglomerate of groups with similar characteristics dating back to 1200 A.D. or earlier. Many Oneota groups settled on flood plains along rivers, and the Blood Run site eight miles southeast of Sioux Falls is likely the largest of the Oneota sites.
Blood Run is believed to have received its name from white settlers, perhaps because the iron-rich rocks leached into the stream on the Iowa side to give it a reddish tint.