Exploring the Parks and Nature Areas Around Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls has 76 named parks throughout the city that range from small sites suitable for neighborhood gatherings and playgrounds to large well developed nature centers such as Great Bear Recreational Park, Arrowhead Park, the Wegner Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historical Site, and the linked park system along the Big Sioux River. The state provides outdoor recreation areas and state parks including the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, Lake Alvin Recreation Area, Newton Hills State Park, and the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls that is a joint city/state operation.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum/Perry Nature Area

 Yesterday, in between the seemingly constant rain, I went out to the Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum/Perry Nature Area on the east edge of Sioux Falls.  This is a site my wife and I visit twice a week for much of the year.  A lot of development in the arboretum has taken place over the past few weeks, and I wanted to capture the changes for those interested in hiking in this very accessible area.

An open house was held a couple of weeks ago for the Mabel and Judy Jasper Educational Center, which is at the heart of the current stage of development for the arboretum.  This building has a replica of a country school classroom, several program rooms, and will serve as the centerpiece for the arboretum.  We attended the open house and were able to savor the upbeat spirit of those key people who spearheaded the creation of the arboretum.

At the moment, there is some concrete work and landscaping taking place in the front entrance area of the center and on the slope behind the building leading down toward the Big Sioux River.  Yesterday, a crew was placing trees along the lower slope and out toward the flatland leading down across the field and tree line toward the river shoreline.

As usual, Finnegan and I headed east along the old rail bed heading toward the river as it bends south under Highway 42.  In years past, this trail was not maintained during the summer, and the grass grew too high for easy passage.  That has all changed since developmental of the arboretum.  The grass is mowed, forming an easy hiking trail that continues down to the entry road leading to the Fraternal Order of Police building. 

It seems obvious that the FOP building is no longer an isolated structure east of town; now, it is right in the middle of a developing nature area and seems misplaced.  It is an island of property that seems incongruous today.

We continued along the old field road that runs east/west and connects back on the main circuit of gravel road that winds through the Perry Nature Center portion of the arboretum.

A major reason for our hike yesterday was to enjoy the remarkable profusion of purple phlox that is scattered throughout the area.

The phlox is seen in clumps within the grasses and out into the trees.  My wife and I have enjoyed this growth for many years, and the arboretum has many swaths both within the Perry Nature Center portion and in the developing arboretum.  We first became aware of the attractive phlox on walks through the Perry Nature Center in years past.

Continuing along the gravel road leading through the Perry portion, we passed the lower picnic shelter, crossed over the small creek flowing through, and moved into the woods as we followed the trail past foundations of the old homes that made up East Sioux Falls.
Looking at the remains of homes that once formed the community of East Sioux Falls evokes a past when this was a vibrant town filled with energy and hope.  A brief history of East Sioux Falls is offered in the historical displays within the arboretum.

The trail heads west until climbing up from the lowlands and entering on to the old rail bed again heading east.

We continued west down the rail bed trail, passing more stands of purple phlox. 

The trail then intersects with the entrance road into the arboretum, and we headed back to the Jasper Educational Center, where the car was parked. 

After stopping to again observe the landscaping work in progress, we departed after an hour of hiking through the area.

My full set of photographs of the hike yesterday can be found on my Flickr page at the following URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayheath/sets/72157634009830033/

A set of past narratives and photographs from earlier postings about the arboretum can be found on the menu located on the right side of the blog.

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