• Phase I work completed, park will reopen soon
BROOKINGS – Weather permitting, a chunk of the city’s new Dakota Nature Park will go up in smoke this weekend, and park officials are letting community residents know in advance so they won’t be too concerned.
With assistance from the Brookings Fire Department, staffers from Parks, Recreation and Forestry will be torching part of the park Saturday as a prelude to establishing a new prairie grass area.
The burnoff of thatch and unwanted weeds is necessary to establish the nature park prairie, explained Peter Colson, city parks director.
The prairie grass area will be developed on the north side of the park, which is located just south of the SouthBrook softball complex on 22nd Avenue.
The controlled burn will be handled by trained city firefighters, beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Colson asked that citizens avoid the area until the work has been completed. Depending on wind and weather conditions, the burnoff should be finished in one day.
Colson said Dakota Nature Park will be reopened for use in the near future, at least until the next phase of construction begins.
City Manager Jeff Weldon, in a conversation with Brookings Radio last Friday, said that Phase I of park construction has been completed. He said Colson would probably reopen the facility “within a week or two.”
The first phase of construction at the park has included new entrance roads and parking lots, the installation of fishing piers at the east and middle ponds, and work on a portion of the park trail system.
Bowes Construction of Brookings is contractor for the Phase I project.
Weldon said the park would likely remain open during Phase II construction, although some areas will be cordoned off from the public as they are being developed.
The key feature of Phase II will be the $1 million nature center, to be built in the southwestern corner of the park. The city manager said the plans for the classroom building are virtually complete, and advertising for bids will take place soon.
He said officials hope to have the nature center fully enclosed for the winter, with the interior finished during the cold-weather months.
Known informally for several years as SouthBrook Nature Park, the newly-named Dakota Nature Park is a 135-acre tract that includes the old city landfill and gravel pit, now made safe for activities. Mature trees line a series of connecting ponds stocked with bass, pike and trout, and the area is a haven for native plants and wildlife.
The new recreation facility is bordered by 22nd Avenue on the east and 32nd Street on the south.
Total construction costs for park will be about $3.25 million. The park was made possible by a $2 million gift from a donor who prefers to remain anonymous.