Public Safety Is Number 1 Priority at Falls Park

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. Yesterday, March 18, 2018, a five-year-old drowned in the Big Sioux River at Falls Park.

“Our condolences go out to the family of this little girl and everyone else affected by this tragedy,” said Don Kearney, Director of Parks and Recreation. “Public safety remains the top priority at Falls Park and throughout our park system.”

Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation continually assesses all of the more than 80 parks in the city for public safety. In 2016, officials from the City, the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, and safety experts assessed the current safety measures at Falls Park and determined they were consistent with industry standards. However, after any accident like this in the city, the incident is studied and safety precautions are reevaluated.

Sidewalks and walled viewing stations throughout Falls Park provide several vantage points for visitors to appreciate the Falls at a close yet safe distance. Safety experts have advised that erecting additional walls or fences along the water at Falls 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 provide additional safety lines for rescuers if needed.

Signage is placed throughout 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. Signage also is installed along the River Greenway so that persons approaching the Falls in canoes or other watercraft are further warned.

Waterways 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 attempting these efforts yourself.