Tribal group wants natural area on golf-course land near Good Earth State Park
A tribal research group says a golf course that's being transferred to state ownership should be converted to a natural area, while state officials say they're still deciding what to do with the land.
The Spring Creek Golf Course sits at the southern border of Good Earth State Park. The course is a few miles southeast of Sioux Falls in Lincoln County.
The golf course was acquired by the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation, which will transfer it to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks in 2025 to potentially be incorporated into Good Earth State Park.
Good Earth spans about 1,200 acres and contains the Blood Run National Historic Landmark. Blood Run is one of the oldest sites of long-term human habitation in the United States. The river and abundance of wildlife, as well as the fertile plains, made the site an important gathering place for many Native American tribes between 1300 and 1700 A.D.
The GF&P has been working with the community, Native American tribes, and other interested parties to determine what to do with the land once it’s under state ownership.
The Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project is proposing that the golf course be converted back to its natural state as a nature area.
The research project is an independent organization that conducts research and works with South Dakota and Iowa on the importance of respecting Indigenous lands. The group says construction of the Spring Creek Subdivision as well as the golf course in the 1990s may have inadvertently violated the Federal 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Al Nedved is the deputy state parks director and said the future of the golf-course land is still under consideration.
“We developed great relationships with the Omaha tribes and the other tribes and, yes, they were involved in our very first meeting on this Spring Creek issue,” Nedved said. "And we would look forward to further discussions with them, and we would emphasize that we're definitely kind of at the forefront of the process and maybe not so much at the back of the process, especially in terms of tribal consultation.”
According to Friends of Blood Run, prior to development, there were 270 visible burial mounds on the site that were reduced to 70 due to construction and farming.
“We realize the importance of having a good, solid understanding of what's present on the site and a good understanding of what some of the potential options as a state park operation might look like there," Nedved said.
Currently, the department has three concepts on its website for potential long-term use of the land, but another short-term option under consideration is to maintain golf-course operations in the interim.
“We'll continue to meet and discuss those concepts and issues with the tribal folks as long as necessary,” Nedved said, “and even on a continued basis, and then we also continue to consult with a lot of those entities on various programming and operational issues at the park to help advise the park staff on appropriate and correct ways of doing park programming and other operations."