New Safety Features Possibly Coming to Falls Park

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – It’s been three months since a five-year-old Iowa girl drowned at Falls Park.  However, this wasn’t the first time. That little girl is the ninth person to drown at Falls Park since 1982.

Now, the city is proposing some big changes to its number one tourist attraction.

KDLT’s Allison Royal introduces us to the possible changes and how they might impact your family.

700,000 people visit Falls Park every year to see the wild waters and floating foam, like this.

It can be a beautiful site. On average, over 7,000 gallons of water fall every second right. However, that can make the surrounding rocks pretty slippery.

These rocks can be dangerous, maybe even deadly, for some of their most frequent visitors: children.

People as young as five and as old as 43 have drowned here at Falls Park. Some drowned while fishing. Others drowned while trying to save someone else. Some simply fell into the water.

Wayne Rickard is a grandfather visiting from Texas. Rickard has seven children of his own. He says parents should be the judge of what their child can or can’t safely do.

“Our children would have been all over the falls, playing and exploring on the rocks,” said Rickard.

In a new report, the city says fences aren’t the answer. It says over 4,000 feet of fencing would be excessive and ultimately, it wouldn’t keep families safe.

“I think fences would detract from many people coming down probably to see the falls, for those who are taking pictures want to get closer to the falls themselves,” said Rickard.

Instead, city leaders want to build a new “lower falls viewing area” with an accessible pathway and a safety railing. This would also be a more handicap-friendly option for visitors. This would cost anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000.

“It allows a person to get right up there and closer to an area that does offer a very nice view, but actually will keep them safer because of the features that are built into the plan,” said Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns.

If approved, it could be a reality as early as April 2019.

The city also suggests putting up more signs. However, city leaders say they do not recommend staffing the park with officers, since their authority would be unclear. Safety leaders plan to present their recommendations to city council on Tuesday.

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