City eyes creating recreation area along Lake Mitchell following dredging project

City officials will be working with a landscape design company to design a post-dredging recreation area consisting of a snowboard and sledding hill, along with hiking and biking trails in the southwest corner of the lake at Firesteel Park.

Shown here is a portion of the 43-acre area along the southwest side of Lake Mitchell that city officials have identified as the spoil site for the recreation area post-dredging. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

As talks of dredging Lake Mitchell have heated up recently, city officials are planning to utilize the dredged soil for a future recreation area.

Should the city pursue dredging the lake as a way to improve the algae woes, Public Works Director Kyle Croce and Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell have identified a 43-acre area along Lake Mitchell that would serve as the spoil site. The spoil site is the primary area where the excavated soil and dirt that’s dredged from the lake would be placed.

Instead of hauling the dredged dirt and soil further from the lake to dispose of it, Croce and Powell developed an idea to utilize the material for a future recreation area consisting of winter snowboarding and sledding hills, along with hiking trails. The plans for the spoil site received support from the Mitchell City Council on Monday night, as it unanimously approved allowing the project to enter into the design phase.

“The idea is to clear that area of what is existing there, and eventually after the dredging spoil site is established, a recreational area would develop,” Croce said during Monday’s council meeting.

The area identified for the spoil site is Firesteel Park on the southwest side of the lake. The park area has existing hiking and biking trails, which Croce said would be incorporated with the creation of the recreation area. To build the snowboarding and sledding hill, Powell said the dredged soil and dirt would be placed at the spoil site in a way that creates a slope.


Confluence, a Sioux Falls-based landscape architect, will be creating a three-dimensional design of what the spoil site and recreation area could look like. Costs for the design work came in at $10,250.

Friends of Firesteel President Joe Kippes backed the concept of turning the dredging spoil site into a recreational area, pointing to the reduction in costs of hauling the excavated dredged material. Friends of Firesteel is a nonprofit organization that formed over a year ago to help the city fundraise for dredging the lake.

“We’ve been working on the in-lake solution for some time and it amounts to dredging. A significant issue relating with the cost is having to transport to the spoil location,” Kippes said. “this site is ideal and cuts down our costs dramatically. Having the recreation area with it is a win-win.”

Powell noted the recreation area at the spoil site was not part of the North Dakota State University community lake use plan that’s about a month away being finished.

“We are completing the project, but COVID-19 put it on hold for a while. We’re hoping to present the final results of it to the Parks and Recreation Board next month,” Powell said.

On the dredging side of things, Croce said the city recently had five companies submit dredging statement of interest plans, and three were selected to present those to the city. According to Croce, the three companies will present their plans to the city in less than a month.

Shown here is a portion of the 43-acre area along the southwest side of Lake Mitchell that city officials have identified as the spoil site for the recreation area post-dredging. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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