Mitchell's parks, recreation areas will remain open during shutdown period

Kenny Wisdom skates with his 6-year-old daughter Delilah, left, at the Dry Run Creek Skate Park on Monday in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in the closure of some local businesses and establishments, but outdoor parks and recreation areas remain open in the city of Mitchell.

That’s the message from Mitchell Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell, following national guidelines regarding outdoor spaces and allowing city parks, campgrounds and outdoor activity areas to remain accessible during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The National Recreation Parks Association supports keeping some parks, outdoor recreation areas and open during the virus, and most parks and recreation agencies have accepted that they want to do the same,” Powell said, noting some parks and trails experiencing overcrowding have closed.

After the Mitchell City Council approved an emergency ordinance on Monday mandating that specific types of businesses close their doors or restaurants transition to curbside pickup, takeout and delivery only option, Powell said the parks will remain open, provided the social distancing guidelines can be followed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines call for individuals to stay at least 6 feet apart to limit physical contact in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

“If you can’t maintain the CDC social distancing guidelines, then it becomes a problem,” Powell said.


Delilah Wisdom, 6, has fun on a skate board while hanging out at the Dry Run Creek Skate Park with her dad Kenny on Monday in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Kenny Wisdom, a local skateboarder, has been seizing on the opportunity to be outside and enjoy a sport he loves at the Dry Run Creek Skate Park. The city-owned park is one of several outdoor areas that will remain available, along with the Lake Mitchell hiking and biking trails, the campground and golf courses in the community.

“There aren’t many skaters using the park at once, and we keep the safe 6-foot distance apart from each other since the virus began spreading across the country,” Wisdom said. “I take my daughter here, and we are grateful we can still have parks and the skate park that we can go to. The weather is getting nice, and being outside keeps us active and healthy.”

Powell said there have been instances of overcrowding at some larger outdoor parks and trails in other states, which has prompted some state and city officials to close public parks. But those communities generally have a denser population than Mitchell, Powell said.

“As long as the parks and outdoor recreation areas aren’t being overcrowded and people follow the CDC guidelines, we can keep them open,” Powell said.

Powell listed the CDC guidelines for those who visit or use parks, which includes being prepared for limited access or no access to restrooms, warning people you are seeking to pass by on a trail and staying away from the parks if a person is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Some of Mitchell's indoor shelters have been closed at local parks since March 13, days after the community had its first positive case

“With the smaller population we have, I don't expect to see a lot of overcrowding at the parks,” Powell said. “We want to be able to continue keeping the parks open in Mitchell, so we hope everyone stays true to practicing the guidelines.”


The city-owned and operated indoor shelters that are located at some of the local parks have been closed since March 13, several days after Mitchell saw its first positive case of the COVID-19 virus. As of Thursday, Davison County had three positive cases of the virus, but the first two cases had recovered.

With the city shutdown going into effect Friday morning, it will likely increase the amount of people staying indoors but Powell said Mitchell's park system will be as important now as it ever has been, provided the community can enjoy it safely.

“People need a place to go and be outside to be able to exercise and stay healthy during this time when many are spending more time inside due to the virus,” Powell said. “I encourage people to exercise during this time, and it’s great that we and other agencies can provide that opportunity.”

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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