Citizens weigh in on  Sturgis Lakeside Adventure Park

Citizens were asked to share their ‘big ideas’ for what they would like to see done on the Sturgis Fairgrounds property. Pioneer photo by Deb Holland

STURGIS — Aaron, Annie, Ivy, Hattie, and Trip Schrader each have their own opinions on what features they would like to see if the proposed Sturgis Lakeside Adventure Park were to become a reality.

The Schraders shared those thoughts with designers at an interactive open house Monday at the Sturgis Community Center.

This process was set in motion last year when the city began discussing some sort of outdoor aquatics venue within the city. The city made a call for citizens to serve on a committee to discuss the options.

The committee hosted several town-hall type meetings to present their ideas.

The Sturgis Aquatics Committee’s proposal calls for building a four-acre lake with beach, water slides, an aquatics obstacle course, pickleball courts, volleyball courts, a walking path, a memorial splash pad and mini golf at the site of the Sturgis Fairgrounds on Ball Park Road.

Ivy Schrader, 9, said she would like to see an obstacle course at the lake.

“It sounds like fun,” she said.

She and Hattie, 7, also like the idea of a giant slide.

Mom, Annie, said she’s just excited about the possibility of the park.

Dad, Aaron Schrader, offered some sound financial advice about the park.

“With this big of an investment, it would be good to be able to use it year around. Ice skating would be a good option,” he said. “I think something like this would be really good for the community and believe that it would be heavily used.”

Aaron Schrader said he also was curious about the funding sources for the proposed park.

According to the Aquatics Committee, potential financing sources include the city of Sturgis, $200,000 from its 2021 budget, $285,000 from the city’s general fund budget in the future, $700,000 from the sale of the city land at the Sturgis Fairgrounds on Ball Park Road, a $2 million TIF guaranteed by developers who would build homes on the land around the adventure park and another $365,000 from grants and Aquatics Committee fundraisers.

The preliminary price tag for the Sturgis Lakeside Adventure Park is about $3.5 million. But the price will be dependent on what design and amenities are chosen.

The public was invited to stop by to ask questions, share ideas, and submit their feedback for park amenities at the open house, said Gene Fennell, a designer working with the city on the project.

There were several “stations” set up in half of the gym at the community center where people could make their wishes known about the park.

They included:

A section where participants were given $136 (a $100 bill, $20, $10, $5, and $1) and were asked to choose the most important elements they wanted in the park by placing the largest bill by the one they wanted most and lesser amounts on things that mattered less.

A board for big ideas that maybe had not been presented yet.

A wall of photos from other water parks around the county where participants could place sticky notes to vote for things they like in those designs.

A video about the project.

A large table with a layout of the fairgrounds site, which could possibly be the location of the park, with cutout amenities that people could use to build their own park in whatever way they chose. Each of the parks built was photographed to capture the layout and amenities.

“We’ve seen some pretty incredible parks built today,” Fennell said. “This process works well because people are engaged, they are involved, they are co-authors of the final product.”

More than 75 people signed in for the open house meeting, but that number may represent just one person in the group. And they spanned the generations from preschoolers to senior citizens.

“We want to hear. We want to listen. We want to see what people’s thoughts are because this park is not ours, it’s this community’s,” he said.

Allison Carter, co-chair of the Sturgis Aquatics Committee, said she was encouraged by the turnout Monday.

“We’ve received some really great new ideas that we had not even thought of which is one of the things we wanted to gain from this process,” she said.

Russ Keeton let organizers know he isn’t against the adventure park, but doesn’t like the concept of a four-acre lake.

“I was in the military for many years and you’re always thinking, ‘what if.’ You can’t ‘what if’ stuff enough. If you don’t ‘what if,’ that’s the one that’s gonna get you. I’m concerned about the safety and security with having a lake up there,” he said.

Keeton doesn’t believe it’s possible to have ice thick enough in the winter for ice skating. He said one day the ice may be 6 to 10 inches think, but a week later it may be only 2 to 4 inches deep.

“The first time a kid or a dog get out there and fall through the ice, there goes our whole community because the lawsuits are going to kill us,” he said.

Instead, he would like to see an ice-skating rink with water 12 to 18 inches deep in the winter. Then, flush it out in the summertime and use it as a play area, possibly a frisbee golf course.

“Then, if the ice gets thin and a kid falls through it, it would be up to his knees or a little higher. But they are not going to drown there,” he said.

Keeton supports a splash pad at the adventure park.

“Kids just love those things,” he said

Keeton also is concerned about the parking at the adventure park particularly the ingress and egress flow.

“Someday a kid is going to run out between those parked cars and get hit. It surprises me that it hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

The designers spent Tuesday walking the potential site and compiling the information gathered at the open house. Fennell said the generated feedback will be taken into consideration when the final presentations are prepared and presented to the Sturgis City Council later this fall.

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