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The little city with big attractions

Dell Rapids' community health projects

The landscape of Dell Rapids, South Dakota, is distinctive and colorful. The identity of the town is tied to the red quartzite that runs underground and the Sioux River that bends through town. Located only 20 miles north of the more urban Sioux Falls, the town of about 3,700 residents has an allure all its own.

Aside from the landscape, Dell Rapids provides residents with plenty of small-town charm and recreational activities. It’s no wonder it’s known as “The Little City with Big Attractions.”

As the first South Dakota community to start working with Healthy Hometown Opens New Window in 2017, Dell Rapids has made remarkable progress by changing the environment to make the healthy choice easier. They've done this through things like extending and widening hiking trails, improving parks to make it easier to be physically active, and holding food demonstrations. These projects and more have resulted in Dell Rapids winning its first Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Community Award.

New places to discover

Every season of the year, you can find walkers, runners and bikers on the Sioux Red Rock Trail that runs along the river in Dell Rapids.

“The trail gives residents a way to move year-round,” says city administrator Justin Weiland. “However, while we have this great public framework, we needed a way to connect all of Dell Rapids’ parks and public lands.”

To make this happen, the trail was extended 1.5 miles, connecting it to downtown and the highway. The city also built a 10-foot recreational trail with two pedestrian bridges crossing the river, along with safety features such as crosswalks.

“There are new places for residents to find now,” says Weiland. “For example, there is an overlook on the Big Sioux River that was not accessible before. Now, you can go for a walk and discover this beautiful scenery.”

“It’s important to note we used little taxpayer money to complete this project,” says Weiland. “That’s because we have dedicated volunteers who donated private funds, secured grant dollars and raised money to make it happen. Community members have done much of the legwork.”

Of all these amenities, the pedestrian bridge is the most well-received by residents. “It offers new ways to explore, plus striking views of the exposed quartzite our town is built upon,” says Weiland.

A match made in heaven

Next, Dell Rapids set its sights on helping residents eat more fruits and vegetables. To help make it possible, representatives from the local grocery store and hospital teamed up for food demonstrations.

“Healthy Hometown helped us create the plan,” says Weiland. “And now that the connections are established, it’s like a match made in heaven. It’s created a buzz in the community.”

Every other month, the collaboration continues. The grocery store has an area that can accommodate the demonstrations and showcase their products. The hospital gets involved by providing an on-site dietitian and marketing material. Up to 30 people are showing up for demonstrations, such as how to peel a pomegranate, how to pack a healthy lunch or how to choose and cut mangoes.

“Now, instead of passing by the healthy options in the grocery store, Dell Rapids residents are bringing them home,” says Weiland.

Investing in parks

Like healthy foods, city parks play a role in helping us feel good. They strengthen communities, provide places for people to gather, make open space more available to improve physical and mental health, and make cities more attractive places to live and work. It’s no wonder Dell Rapids worked to enhance its parks and the overall quality of life for its residents over the last year.

They added a large shade structure at the public pool, expanded the campground with an additional 15 campsites, and installed a comfort station, which includes accessible showers and drinking fountains — improvements that residents identified as a priorities for the campground.

In addition, the garden club installed a pollinator garden, a local boy scout troop built a new covered patio, or pergola, and a Little Free Library was installed near the new trail extension.

More success to come

“Now that we’ve seen success, we want more,” says Weiland. "Everyone is having fun and enjoying being part of this growth. Some of this will happen organically on its own. We have no lack of ideas and projects.”

Dell Rapids has also seen its share of complications. For example, the river flooded in the spring of 2019, damaging campgrounds and bike trails. Part of the 2020 plans include repairing these areas.

“We had to cut down trees for some projects, so we need to replace them,” says Weiland. “We’re continuing with our trail extensions, which we are working on in phases due to the overall cost of the project. Our master plan includes a loop of trails around the entire community.”

Also in the works is a community garden, dog park and enhancements to picnic shelters.

“Our community is going to continue to grow,” adds Weiland. “We want to be ready for it. Part of that is creating a culture of engagement, so we are making decisions with input from the community. Healthy Hometown is helping us firm up our plans. We couldn’t be more excited or grateful.”

Want to make your community healthier?

Learn how Healthy Hometown can provide expert assistance to help your community eat well, move more and feel better. Check out Healthy Hometown online Opens New Window or email Send Email for more information.