South Dakota State School of Design delivers park master plan to Chamberlain

The South Dakota State University School of Design was selected this past spring to propose a master plan for a new community park in Chamberlain. The final proposal was presented to and endorsed by community partners and the Chamberlain City Council this fall, and a newly secured grant will help move the project forward. (SDSU Marketing & Communications illustrations)

BROOKINGS — The South Dakota State University School of Design was selected this past spring to propose a master plan for a new community park in Chamberlain.

After months of preparation, the final proposal was presented to and endorsed by community partners and the Chamberlain City Council this fall to begin the next step of development and implementation.

And the team behind the project just learned that a newly secured grant will help the plan move forward.

Nearly a decade of planning

Chamberlain is located along the Missouri River in central South Dakota. As the largest community within a 25-mile radius, the community is an important hub of commerce and services for the surrounding region.

In 2014, residents in Chamberlain began pursuing ideas for a community park. Their vision wanted to capture South Dakota’s rich history of dinosaur fossils, along with promoting the city as a destination for travelers and regional residents.

Funding was provided that year to purchase and install a replica of a mosasaur — a large marine reptile from the late Cretaceous Period — at the intended park. It became a catalyst for building community support for the project.

Efforts have been ongoing since 2014 to bring the project to fruition. Initial fundraising efforts have resulted in the purchase and installation of a few dinosaur replicas, but no plan for a formal park exhibit yet existed.

Since then, the recently formed nonprofit South Dakota Dinosaur Park Inc. joined the conversation in the park development. Its mission is to develop a “free outdoor dinosaur wonderland featuring dinosaurs found in the Dakotas, to inspire the imagination and creativity of children as well as adults and become an educational destination for visitors to explore, therefore creating a positive economic impact on Chamberlain, Oacoma and the surrounding communities.”

Partnering with SDSU

South Dakota Dinosaur Park Inc. contacted the SDSU School of Design in spring 2023 for assistance in achieving the vision initially set for the dinosaur park.

The landscape architecture program at SDSU partnered with South Dakota Dinosaur Park Inc. and the city of Chamberlain to prepare a conceptual plan that focused on development of multiple dinosaur exhibits under a phased installation strategy.

Throughout the summer, members from the SDSU landscape architecture program worked together to develop a proposal. Final plans for the project were then developed by Jeremiah Bergstrom, lecturer in the School of Design, and senior landscape architecture student Riley Stueber.

Bergstrom explained the details of the proposal. “(The plan) embeds dinosaur exhibits within areas of native tallgrass prairie at one end of the park and at the other end provides a community gathering space. A continuous walking path leads visitors around the dinosaur installations with mown lawn areas between tallgrass prairie plantings, allowing for closer viewing and interaction with the dinosaur exhibits.

“A pavilion and paved plaza facing a central dinosaur exhibit welcome visitors and allow for open sight lines throughout the park,” he continued. “The design includes rock-climbing structures, a playground and dog park along with a water and wetland feature that serves to protect against flooding during storm events. The performance venue and gently sloping open lawn provide the community with a versatile open space for community gatherings and events. Buffer plantings to the north and south of the park screen adjacent uses and private properties while focusing visitors’ views westward across the Missouri river and distant landscape.”

Valuable student experience

Stueber, a Rapid City native, gained valuable experience by participating in meetings and visiting the project site throughout the process.

“Interacting with the Chamberlain community helped me to create an inclusive design that met the needs of local community residents while providing amenities that visitors to the city would also stop to experience,” Stueber said.

He used a combination of AutoCAD, SketchUp and Lumion software to create visualizations of what the park could look like and provide the foundation for further discussion about building the park.

“These digital tools are a great way to begin the design process,” Bergstrom explained. “The scaled drawings Stueber developed in AutoCAD provide a foundation for future design development and a true understanding of scale and proportion, while the three-dimensional visualizations in SketchUp and Lumion provide for an engaging interaction with community members and project sponsors to build support for the project.”

The completed master plan design was provided to community partners in September, and South Dakota Dinosaur Park Inc. board members recently presented it to the Chamberlain City Council.

Council and community members have endorsed the master plan, and the community just received a grant to move the project ahead. The funds will be used to hire a landscape architect to begin design development and construction plans. SDSU has connected the community with a local landscape architect professional who will be able to take the master plan and help the community move forward with the project.