Soapsuds Hollow: Public warming house still holds value
July 08. 2014 5:58PM
It was a perfect summer evening. There was a ballgame at Rickeman Field, so I walked down to the warming house to take a look.
Recent rains have drained away, but there was still water in the ditch on the west side of the warming house. With the Garfield bridge almost completely gone, and the old bridge which crossed the river at Orleans Avenue but a memory, the ditch appears to be the best place to cross the river.
All you need is a canoe.
As I walked across the ditch and looked south to the baseball field, it suddenly occurred to me that my canoe would be a great way to get to the ballgame. I could beach it on the south bank with little or no effort, and quietly return to the warming house after the game.
The scoreboard was hidden from view, so I began to walk eastward, along the south end of the skating rink. The berms are still there. This would be a great place to set up my tent, I thought. No vehicles, just a tent.
I took a good look at the warming house, still standing after all these years. I looked at the blocks of quartzite, cut to fit, and I looked at the edges of the building and the window openings. A remarkable little building, I thought, admiring the work of the stone cutters and masons. I remembered Herman Kroger, and wondered how many skates he had laced and unlaced. I wondered how many miles he had driven on the tractor when he mowed the parks.
I looked back across the skating rink, and thought about the potential for a tent-only camping area for boaters. I imagined a little dock in place for easy mooring of a canoe or kayak. I thought about how fun it would be to launch in Trent, make the trip to Dells, and then to camp there with friends and family.
I thought about the value of the property, and the $40,000 estimate placed on the property's value by our city leaders.
I started to question the reasons why we don't ice skate on the river anymore, and if "insurance risk" is really a logical reason to prohibit such an activity when one considers that the Big Sioux nearly froze solid this past winter. I wondered how deep the channel might be come October, and if we would be able to walk across the Rapids on the rocks as we have in many past years. I thought about the weight of a snowmobile with a 200-pound adult aboard, versus a 75-pound kid on ice skates, and wondered who might have the better chance of going through the ice in front of the warming house.
I thought about the caboose in the Park, and the conversation I had with a friend regarding potential insurance risk, and the rumors about removing it. I thought about the old Orleans bridge again, and the destruction of it, one of the oldest bridges in South Dakota at the time. I remembered spearing carp from the old bridge with my friends. I remembered crossing the bridge for football practice, and looking to see who was sitting in Paul Moe's barber chair in the bank basement as we walked by.
I remembered playing on the merry-go-round in the park before merry-go-rounds were extinct. I remembered when we would see if we could go all the way across the top of the amphitheater.
Then I called Jay Nebben.
"Jay, let's put your bridge across the river down by the warming house," I said. "They already have cranes down in the Park, and plenty of rock to extend the banks so it will fit."
“That would take an act of Congress," he replied, jokingly.
Maybe it's not such a bad idea to sell that warming house property. You wouldn't need a road. You can get there by water (or ice). It could be a canoe rental place with camping in the summer, with ice cream and Coke sold from one of the windows of the warming house. It could be home once again to an ice skating rink in the winter, with snowmobiles on the frozen river, and coffee and hot chocolate served next to the wood stove inside.
Maybe you could eventually get a permit for a floating casino, like they have in Sioux City. Once you own the property, anything would be possible if you can cut through the red tape.
Then I thought about a Dell Rapids with no public access to the river, and how dismal it would be. No bike trail along the river. No fishing. No boat ramp. No morning walks as the fog hugs the water.
Dell Rapids is approaching a population of 4,000. There is so much potential here, but some people just don't see it. To sell some of our publicly-owned riverfront property would be profoundly foolish – especially with a quartzite building on it. It is who we are.
The value to the public of the warming house property? Priceless.