With the completion of the design for the winter sports hill that’s proposed to be created along Lake Mitchell, the Parks and Recreation Board recently had its first glance at the project.
During Thursday’s board meeting at City Hall, a representative of the architectural landscape company that completed the design provided an in depth presentation on the project. The winter sports hill -- which would entail a large sloped hill for snowboarding, tubing and sledding -- is planned to be created inside the Firesteel Park area along the west side of Lake Mitchell following a lake dredging project.
"As dredging plans move forward, we need a spoil site to place the dredged material, and Firesteel Park has been identified as one of the better locations because of its size," said Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell, noting the area encompasses 50 acres of land.
As the city of Mitchell inches closer to proposing a future lake dredging project, identifying a spoil site that would serve as the area where the dredged sediment from the lake bottom is placed must be determined. With the Firesteel Park area being identified as a potential candidate for the spoil site, Powell is seeking to utilize the dredged sediment for the creation of a winter sledding and snowboarding hill at that location.
Over the past two months, Confluence, a Sioux Falls-based architectural landscape design firm, has been designing the winter sports hill that’s proposed to be located at Firesteel Park. Lyle Pudwill, a representative of Confluence, spoke to the board over the phone during Thursday’s meeting.
“We designed some parts of the hill with runs for multi-level difficultness. On the northeast side of the hill, we want to capture a lot of the water and snowmelt runoff from the hill with a series of ponds at the bottom of the hill,” Pudwill said, noting they could also serve as ice skating areas. “In relation to the sun angles, we would try to keep the hill going down in the northeast direction so we can maintain the snow a little longer, which could help with less snowmelt during the season.”
From the top of the Firesteel winter sports hill, the design shows there would be a roughly 80 foot slope to the bottom. Pudwill said the estimated length of the hill would be 400 feet, which stretches toward the lake shoreline.
Pudwill referenced a similar snow sports park in Sioux City, Iowa, that was recently developed. The Sioux City winter sports park includes a rental facility at the bottom of the hill for users to tube, sled or snowboard. From the top of the 600-foot-long hill, there is a 95 foot sloop to the bottom.
During the design phase, Pudwill said the city’s existing bike and walking trail system and the potential lake marina project that was identified to be located next to Firesteel Park at the West End Boat Launch were considered. Pudwill said the proposed cabin rentals that were part of the lake marina design would allow for a “good viewing” area for the winter sports hill.
“The lake cabin area could allow for a warming house for good viewing for the winter activities on the hill,” Pudwill said. “The usefulness of the trail system that runs through the Firesteel Park area makes it really valuable to the site. We want to make an area for a continuous trail section on the hill.”
For Board member Shawn Erickson, the design concept of the winter sports hill is an opportunity that’s necessary for the Mitchell community.
“This all looks really good. When I was growing up in Mitchell, we never had a legit snowboarding and sledding hill and had to go to Sioux Falls,” Erickson said. “My kids would love this.”
Erickson raised a question regarding the revenue potential of the winter sports hill. In response, Powell said the city has yet to determine whether the Firesteel winter recreation area will be free or have a rental fee structure for potential snow recreation equipment.
Board member Chris Retterath addressed his concerns surrounding the use of the dredged sediment as a means to create the winter sports hill. With the close proximity between the proposed winter recreation hill and the lake, Retterath questioned how the phosphorus-laden sediment will remain in place.
“So we’re dredging the soil from the lake to get rid of the phosphorus, so how are we going to keep that from going right back into the lake by building the hill right next to it?” Retterath asked.
While Pudwill noted the inquiry is “far from his expertise,” he said past discussions within the Confluence team have determined there are methods to effectively contain the sediment from nearby bodies of water.
“They will cap the dredged soil and there will be drainage from the hill that goes underneath it,” Pudwill said. “Once it is capped, we want to make sure that we control the runoff so the water can’t carry any phosphorus from the surface or into the groundwater and migrate across. I know there are methods to doing it from what I’ve been told by our team, and that will be a part of the next step with those experts.”
Powell added that spoil sites for lakes that have been dredged in the past are commonly placed near or next to the lake, which plays a major role in determining the costs of a dredging project. Based on previous engineering firms that pitched dredging proposals for Lake Mitchell, there is a consensus that costs significantly rise if the distance of the spoil site from the dredged lake is longer.
“The multiple dredging firms we talked to said they cap it off and seal it off with material such as clay and other material… Generally, they do the spoil sites adjacent to the lakes. We visited a lake that was dredged recently in Nebraska and its spoil site was right next to the lake across the road,” Powell said.