The 1972 Flood 40th Anniversary provides an opportunity to increase education and awareness of the source of Rapid City’s abundant park space and the need to be vigilant in preserving it. While Friends is participating with city government and other civic organizations to plan events to commemorate the flood, we also want to take the opportunity to educate citizens who did not reside here or were not born yet in 1972, that the memorial greenway along Rapid Creek is not just “empty land.”
We are bringing an international expert on the economic value of green space to speak at a public event in Rapid City, to host a civic response and discussion of the lecture, and to conduct a workshop for parks, recreation and planning professionals and interested citizens.
For all of 2012, not just in events leading to the June anniversary, Friends of Rapid City Parks will take action to enhance its advocacy of park protection and expansion, increase membership, and conduct activities to increase citizen awareness of the park legacy created by the 1972 flood. The need to preserve the greenway’s flood prevention attributes as well as its memorial, recreational and ecosystem and habitat functions has never been more critical.
Recent reports from hydrologic scientists confirm that the 1972 flood was not an anomaly and could happen again.Economic strains on state and municipal budgets undercut support for open space and environmental protection. The natural asset value of green space is not well understood, particularly when compared to arguments that city owned land could provide economic development opportunities or “free” land for public structures such as schools and recreation facilities.
Though our citizens enjoy the parks, not everyone knows why we have them or what it takes to preserve this hallowed ground. In the 40 years since the flood more than 60 buildings have been erected in the park, and hundreds of acres have been covered with asphalt for parking. As our city grows we are not adding parkland, nor are we investing enough resources to maintain the quality of existing parks.
While commemoration activities are looking back and remembering, our event is positioned to help people look forward. Rapid City parks are a legacy of the flood. The decisions made in the 1970s not to rebuild in the greenway stemmed not only from a desire to remember those who lost their lives, homes and businesses, but also to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. This historic context, when understood by citizens and policy makers, can inform future decisions about the use, development and preservation of parkland.