The City of Sioux Falls completed its annual assessment of Falls Park by safety industry experts this summer. The Falls of the Big Sioux River are the namesake of the city and are visited by more than 500,000 people every year. While the Falls represent one of nature’s visual wonders, they also present natural hazards.
On March 14, 2013, Madison Wallace and Lyle Eagle Tail died while trying to keep a boy from harm at Falls Park. Fortunately, the boy escaped unharmed.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and friends,” said Don Kearney, Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Director. “Public safety remains the most vital component in Falls Park operations. With that goal in mind, after the incident we collectively evaluated current conditions and any potential improvements.”
Sidewalks and walled viewing stations throughout Falls Park provide several vantage points for visitors to appreciate the wonder of the Falls at a close, yet safe, distance. The annual safety assessment of Falls Park confirmed that erecting additional walls or fences along the water at Falls SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO-AM) Park would severely impede potential rescue efforts. However, anchor points have been installed in the park by drilling small holes in strategic quartzite rock formations. Anchors can then be attached to the holes and can provide additional safety lines for rescuers if needed.
Signage is placed at all the main access points to Falls Park and warns visitors in universal language to be wary of the water’s edge due to slippery conditions when wet, to watch for turbulent water, to actively supervise younger children, and not to swim in the area. Additional signage has been placed at other locations in the park to reinforce that message. Signage also is included in River Greenway plans so that persons approaching the Falls in canoes or other watercraft are further warned.
Bodies of water pose a natural hazard regardless of the precautions taken. In the event of an emergency, contact 911 and allow professional rescue personnel to conduct rescue efforts rather than attempt these efforts yourself.