Preserving History through State Parks

Preserving History through State Parks

By Emily Oyos

South Dakota has a rich history of people inhabiting the Plains region dating back thousands of years. Native Americans first lived on this land, followed by the pioneers and settlers of the 1800s and early 1900s.  Today, many of these beautiful landscapes made up of rolling grasslands and roaring rivers have been converted into housing developments and shopping malls.

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However, there are still some places where one can return to nature and view the Plains as they may have looked hundreds of years ago. In the Sioux Falls region alone, there are three places I enjoy visiting to learn about the history of this area: Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, and Good Earth State Park at Blood Run.

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Big Sioux Recreation Area offers a variety of hiking and biking trails that lead into forested woodlands and up to the top of a hill that overlooks Native prairie forbs. If you look closely during the springtime, you may even find South Dakota’s state flower, the Pasque, hidden between the grasses. In the 1860s the land where the park is now located was home to Ole Bergeson.  For those interested in learning more about his homestead, Bergeson’s cabin is still located along the main road in the park.

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Beaver Creek Nature Area is also home to hundreds of trees, acres of prairie grasses, and the Samuelson cabin. One of my favorite events held at the nature area, Homesteader Day, occurs every year in early September. At this event, the cabin is open for tours, there is live music, horse-drawn farming equipment, candle-dipping, food demonstrations, and much more. Beaver Creek is a wonderful area to explore and experience what life was like for early settlers on the Plains.

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South Dakota’s newest State Park, Good Earth at Blood Run, features miles of walking trails, a state-of-the-art interpretive center, and a variety of scenic overviews. The Oneota Tradition Peoples lived on and cultivated the land from 1300-1700 A.D.  This sacred area was a major trading center for Native American people due to the abundance of flood plains, wildlife, and pipestone.  Whenever I visit Good Earth, my favorite stops along the path are the scenic overlooks.

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Today, all you can see is farmland, trees, and the winding Big Sioux River.  However, I love to imagine what the fertile flood plain looked like hundreds of years ago when it was teeming with people harvesting food, trading, and going about daily life in their earth lodges. Good Earth State Park is a great place where one can connect with nature while learning about the Native people who once inhabited the land.

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These are only three of many areas around the state where one can experience history and nature coming together in beautiful harmony. So stop staring at your phone, get off the couch, out of the air conditioning, and come explore everything the parks have to offer!

 

 

 

Adventure is Always Around

Adventure is Always Around

By Emma Lucchesi

School was finally slowing down and the anticipation of summer was at an all-time high. As the new season drew closer, my excitement to begin my summer internship grew each day. And although I was eager to experience real world career skills, I couldn’t help feeling jealous of my peers, always posting on social media about their grand summer adventure plans. My ears would perk up as I heard people talk about traveling around the U.S. or going abroad. I couldn’t escape the conversations at graduation parties.

I have always wanted to travel, but also felt that it was essential to develop future work skills during the summer. So my dilemma was figuring out how I could go on adventures during the summer while still maintaining a job.

I was determined to visit some places near Sioux Falls and Brookings that I hadn’t explored before. I started by visiting Falls Park. Then I ventured onto GoodEarth state park, the Palisades, Devil’s Gulch, Splitrock Park, and the Japanese Terrace Garden. Some places were cooler than others.

 

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My favorite place was The Palisades. I went on a random day after work. I bought a four dollar park sticker, parked my car, got a trail map, randomly picked a trail, and started on my solo hike. At first I felt awkward on the hike, but then I started to embrace the quietness of it. I am an extrovert and enjoy being in the company of others, but I had a grand time hiking alone; I highly recommend trying it. Along my hike I met a really cool dog (the owner was nice as well), climbed some cliffs, jumped across the river rocks and just had fun exploring the area. At dusk, I made my way back to my car.

 

Being the volunteer coordinator intern this summer has been an amazing experience. I thoroughly enjoy my job and all the people I work with. Each day I get up and wonder what new thing/skill I will learn, or what task I will need to complete. When people ask if the two hour drive each day is hard I reply with, “It is easier to do because I love the place I work at!”

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While I love my job, it does make it harder to travel. My biggest piece of advice though is to not let that stop you. There are always places to explore; you just might have to look a little harder!

Buddy’s Great Hitchhiking Journey

Buddy’s Great Hitchhiking Journey

Buddy was different from the other turtles in the pond, and it wasn’t because of his missing back leg. He had a unique yellow coloring under his neck and bright yellow spots down his arm. He was all alone, until a snapping turtle came up to attack. The interns at The Outdoor Campus West saved Buddy from the snapping turtle and brought Buddy into a safe location.

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After recognizing Buddy did not belong to their part of the state, The Outdoor Campus West reached out to PhD candidate Drew Davis from the University of South Dakota, in hopes that Buddy could live east of the river.

With the help of The University of South Dakota, The Outdoor Campus West was able to identify Buddy as a endangered Blanding’s turtle, located far outside of his natural habitat. Blanding’s turtles are distributed across the Great Lakes region, east through Iowa, Minnesota and also northern New York. Very few populations exist around this region, especially not as far west as Rapid City where Buddy was discovered.

Emmett Keyser, the Regional Supervisor for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, was in Rapid City for a meeting when Buddy was found. After receiving news of this unique turtle, The Outdoor Campus sent Emmett to go pick up Buddy in order to transfer him to the East location. Emmett and Buddy traveled across the state together where they enjoyed each other’s company. “I was lucky enough to hold him overnight; he’s a neat little critter” said Keyser. “He’s left an impression on all of us here at The Outdoor Campus.”

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blanding's turtle habitat

The University of South Dakota will be taking Buddy today June 26th, 2017 to use in the Biology department for educational purposes. At USD Buddy will help teach students about endangered species as well as the importance of habitat protection.

“Buddy definitely has a story to tell, we don’t know how he got to South Dakota, but we sure are excited he’s here,” Keyser said.

For more information on Blanding’s turtles visit SDherps.org

Ms. Kailee’s Wild Read of the Week

Ms. Kailee’s Wild Read of the Week

My Summer Project

By Kailee Versteeg

While working at a job that I love, I was assigned to create and carry out a summer project. This project could be anything, from organizing a new class, to building a new playground item for kids to climb on. It could be revamping something old, or creating something brand new. I sat for a while and pondered what I would be passionate about making/ accomplishing this summer. I wanted to enjoy completing the project but my main focus was of course having the kids enjoy my project.

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Reading immediately came to my mind; I absolutely love to read to kids. I know many kids enjoy reading but sometimes need something hands on as well. That was when my brain went to the idea of crafts. I combined the two elements and came up with an idea I call, The Wild Read of the Week.

Wild read of the week

Each week I find 3-4 books about a certain topic that I choose. Lots of the books displayed in my Wild Read of the Week corner are borrowed from the Outdoor Campus’s library. My reading/ craft station is located inside The Outdoor Campus East, right in the corner of the Bird Viewing area.  The theme changes each week and so does the craft. This keeps everything new and exciting for families and kids who are here regularly.

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Last weeks’ theme was Butterflies, I had 4 books about butterflies or that have butterflies in them. I display these books on a white board which I also decorate according to the theme that week. On the table next to the book-display/whiteboard,  I have a small craft with instructions for kids to create. All the materials  are provided on the craft table so that kids can have fun creating something while reading the books. This week’s theme is Owls.

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little girl coloring

I am happy to say that this space has been extremely successful. Since the corner has been up and running (which might I add has only been a few weeks) I am always needing to restock craft supplies and organize books because kids are going crazy about reading and crafts! This makes me so happy to see kids reading and being creative! I hope they continue to enjoy my summer project as much as I enjoy creating it weekly for them.

Growing up generation “Y”: an Ode to the great outdoors.

Growing up generation “Y”: an Ode to the great outdoors.

By Maggie Squyer

In today’s world, it is easy to judge little kids running around with iPads. We cringe at the sight of children playing on smart devices AT the dinner table and always complain about how kids don’t know how to unplug. But, is it entirely their fault? Perhaps they just don’t know any better.

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I was 15 when the iPad was released, and just three years before that the iPhone made its way into the world. Children born after 2010 (generation Alpha) never had the chance to live in a world without smart technology. Those of us who grew up without Apple products, virtual reality, or impressively graphic video games, are (I believe) actually very lucky. I say this because we got to experience what it was like to play in the great outdoors without the distraction of any portable devices. For me, playing outside usually meant taking a trip to my favorite place in Sioux Falls: McKennan Park.

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McKennan Park was founded in 1908 and became a second home to me roughly 85 years later. I spent ALL my spare time here as a kid chasing my siblings around the playground, splashing in the kiddie pool, and enjoying free shows every Monday night at the band shelter. The park back then, and continues to be, the perfect place for kids to grow up.

One of the most vivid memories from my childhood was me losing my shoes at McKennan Park. I was playing in the sand, next to the swing set, and I decided to burry my shoes REALLY deep into the ground. After my failed attempt to unearth the sandals, I had to walk home barefoot and explain to my mom how I lost my shoes.

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The park has had a lasting impact on my life. Now that I’m older, I take my nieces and nephews to McKennan every time I babysit. It was at the park that I mastered how to tie my shoes, fly a kite, and learned how to ice skate. So to all the kids out there reading this article on your phone: put it down! Go enjoy the park!

New food plot project makes effort to increase pheasant/pollinator numbers.

With crop prices at an all time high, South Dakota has seen a drastic reduction in the amount of land set aside for wildlife. This trend has affected the population of native plants and animals, hurting especially pheasant numbers. This summer, the Wildlife Division of South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks aims to increase wildlife population with a new habitat project.  P1140457

The idea here is to plant a large pollinator plot full of flowering plants to attract insects and other wildlife to the land. Insects are crucial to the survival of pheasant chicks since insects are a large part of a pheasant chicks’ diet. No flowers = No insects = No pheasants. The Outdoor Campus has dedicated one acre of land to this pollinator plot project which was started early this past May.

Regional habitat Manager Steve VanderBeek, explains what it is like to work on this project. “It’s pretty exciting stuff to do because there is interest in bumblebees and butterflies and stuff. This (project) is probably the most receptive of an audience we have ever seen for habitat related things!”

Annual Cover CropExpected image of what the plot will look like this summer

The project consists of two major planting parts. For the first year of the project, the unoccupied land is introduced to a annual cover crop. This seed mixture consists of mainly grasses and clover type plants. After one year of growth, the habitat will be ready to take on a more diverse seed mixture. A perennial mix will then be introduced to the land and will produce insect-attracting flowers. The perennial mixture will take about two years to mature and develop.

Wild Bergamot      Blanket Flower       Black Eyed Susan

Besides a gorgeous display of native and non native plants, the new pollinator plot will provide food and shelter for many different species of wildlife. Insects attracted by flowers will serve as food for pheasant chicks. Sunflowers and sorghums will stand up to provide cover during winter for grassland songbirds.

The goal for this project is to enhance, populate and diversify a unique habitat for different types of wildlife. A pollinator plot is “so doable; you can do a very small piece of land and it is very easy to accomplish.”

 

New Step-Outside Coordinator Jason is having a “crazy-great” time at The Outdoor Campus.

Admittance and participation at The Outdoor Campus is so accessible to the Sioux Falls community and surrounding areas. The free educational programs and hunt safe training can be obtained by anyone with ease. Sioux Falls is lucky enough to be both an urban and nature area, thanks to state parks and other community nature landscapes. But what about the smaller communities located far away from The Outdoor Campus? How can we as an organization access these children and families so they can benefit from our classes?18945154_10154482417212466_263792479_n

The Step-Outside program has been developed to provide nature education to those who cannot get to The Outdoor Campus. A team of three staff members, a large trailer filled with outdoor equipment and a lot of fun makes up this unique experience. Traveling around the state, The Outdoor Campus staff and interns are able to educate people off-campus in area such as fishing, archery, gun safety, furs and other nature classes. The Outdoor Campus just hired a new Coordinator for the Step-Outside program; meet Jason!

Q & A with Jason Nelson

Q: What interested you in applying for this Naturalist position at The Outdoor Campus?

Jason: I have spent a lot of time in natural resource management, and throughout my career, I discovered my passion was outreach and education. I decided I wanted to find a job where that’s what I could do every day. So when this position opened up, I applied right away.

Q: How have your first (only 2) days gone in your new position?

Jason: Crazy. There is a lot going on… which is great! It’s exactly what I wanted. I am so excited to have two interns helping me out. They are new too so we are all learning together.

Q: What are the goals you have for this upcoming summer and future seasons to come?

Jason: Right now I am focusing on surviving. Ha-ha, no, but I am just excited to learn and share what The Outdoor Campus has to offer. And really, the goal here is to get kids outside. That’s number one.

Q: Anything else you want to share with me about your time at The Outdoor Campus so far?

Jason: Just that, I’m Happy To Be Here 🙂

 

We are all so excited to welcome Jason Nelson to The Outdoor Campus team! It is going to be a great summer!