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SF Parks Director dispels Spellerberg distortions

by Greg Belfrage

Sioux Falls Parks and Rec Director Don Kearney joined me this morning to field questions on the indoor and outdoor pool proposals for Spellerberg Park. We received a lot of listener questions for Don when he participated in our Spellerberg forum last week. I also wanted to visit with Kearney about claims I've heard from supporters of an outdoor pool.

A Save Spellerberg spokesperson penned a letter to the editor this week saying votes should support an outdoor pool because the city has plans to close the swimming pools at Kuehn and Frank Olson parks. I asked Kearney about it.

"That was an untruthful statement," Kearney told me. He said the city's aquatics master plan calls for significant expansion at Kuehn Park.

Kearney said a consultant has recommended replacing Frank Olson pool with a spray water park due to the close location of outdoor aquatics centers at Drake Springs and Laurel Oaks. However, Kearney emphasized aquatic recreation would remain available at Frank Olson park.

There have also been suggestions that a new indoor pool would be a violation of a land deed between the VA and the city. Sioux Falls originally acquired the park property from the Veteran's Administration.

Kearney says the deed has two conditions. The land must be used for park and recreation purposes...and the city's use of the land cannot interfere with operations at the VA hospital.

The city would be in full compliance with the deed requirements, according to Kearney.

The deed has been an issue because questionsof indoor pool overflow parking at the nearby Royal C. Johnson Veteran's Hospital have been raised throughout the campaign.

The city had published materials early in the discussions listing secondary parking for an indoor pool at the VA hospital. Kearney has told me previously that was an early plan that has been scrapped.

"The outdoor facility would have a 179 stall parking lot. And the indoor facility would have a 203 stall parking lot," Kearney said. "Both of those facilities would be sized to accommodate the amount of people using that facility. There are no plans to use the VA parking..in either the outdoor facility or the indoor facility."

Kearney has repeated this throughout the campaign, yet Save Spellerberg continues to make claim after claim that the city will use the VA for additional parking. Forgive me, but one handout from early in the planning stages is hardly evidence of a city conspiracy to use VA parking.

Save Spellerberg representatives told me last week that they also dispute the city's traffic and parking numbers. However, they've produced absolutely no study of which I'm aware to contradict the city's estimates or prove them unreliable.

It's my view that Save Spellerberg has been grasping at straws in desperation... spreading distortions and outright falsehoods to win support. It ought to stop.

One last thing. Spellerberg is not a neighborhood park. Neighborhood parks are 2-3 acres in size. Dan Dugan Park is a neighborhood park.

Spellerberg is a beautiful 18 acres. It is a city park. It belongs to all of us, not just the few who are blessed to live near it.

Greg Belfrage ( @belfrageshow ) is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.