A Time Ahead of its Man
When I ride through the shaded bike trails along the river in Sioux Falls, I imagine bumping into Steve Metli. In the early 70’s at age 28, he became the new director of city planning. I was a not quite yet 20 year old radio reporter at KXRB. We crossed paths many times. Steve did not invent the River Greenway; it was the product of input from many local citizens and organizations. But there was no bigger cheer leader and he never missed a chance share the vision that parks and river access would have on the quality of life and city development. My entire adult life witnessed that vision develop and mature to showcase my hometown in a new way.
The 19+ mile loop of off-road bike trails encircles the heart of the city. In this second bike trail installment, water is again the highlight as the trail follows the Sioux River along the west and southern parts of the city, leading to the falls, with the diversion channel and spillway closing the circle. It seems like my ride is usually clockwise, especially with a south wind, and my favorite section is from Yankton Trail Park to Falls Park. It’s part of the original trail, next to the water, wooded and shaded, and connecting park after park. The river is channeled for flood control from the Mall area northward to the airport and around to Falls Park. The trail is well maintained on the raised embankment, but the water doesn’t feel as accessible. I usually ride it way too fast. Take an extra hour or three… take three or maybe more, set an easy pace, and appreciate the surroundings along the way.
You won’t be alone; trail counters show upwards of a million users annually. Spurs connected to the loop add another 15+ miles of off-road bike trails. Don Kearney is Director of Parks and Recreations for Sioux Falls. I took time out of a ride with colleague Brian Gevik, to talk with Don at the Queen Bee Mill in Falls Park. (Don is featured in the attached video) With help from his advisory committees, Don says the master plan could connect Tea, Harrisburg, Brandon, and other area communities for those recreating or commuting to work. Also develop on both sides of the river through the downtown area for walking, biking, and commerce.
Much like the foresight developing Marne Creek in Yankton, the Greenway development in Sioux Falls leaves nothing to waste, repurposing park and trail land for multi-use protecting the city while adding to the quality of life. The enthusiasm Steve Metli had for the city and the greenway development made him a man ahead of his time. I’m glad he got see his career long belief in that investment was correct. Steve passed away in early 2017, but the impact of the greenway will go on for generations as a time ahead of its man.
Check out the video of our ride from the trailhead at 57th and Western to Falls Park and the photo gallery along the route. Next stop is Watertown with trails from the Redland to Lake Kampeska and then Pierre for another River ride and a trip down Hilgers Gultch.