James Kramer told a group of Dickinson city leaders Tuesday that “individual factors” such as recreation, tourism, arts and culture are becoming the main influences in where people choose to live their lives.
The city’s Parks and Recreation director said he sees it almost daily when business leaders and Dickinson State University recruiters bring potential employees and students, respectively, to the West River Community Center in an effort to convince them to work, learn and live in Dickinson.
“In olden days, people moved to a place where there are job opportunities,” he said. “Nowadays, people may have two or three different employment opportunities, and they’re going to go look at those and base their decision on different individual factors. Does that community have what I’m looking for to live?”
Kramer’s comments kicked off the Quality of Life luncheon hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce at Lady J’s.
The luncheon featured short presentations on areas the influence Dickinson’s well-being by Terri Thiel, executive director of the Dickinson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; Jim Kelly, interim CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, and Ty Orton, executive director of the DSU Heritage Foundation.
Kramer said the parks department is turning its focus to improving long-neglected areas of its portfolio, such as the city’s trail system as well as possible improvements around the Patterson Lake Recreation Area.
He said trails are “an area where we’re lacking.”
“We definitely need to take a look at our trail system and expand it,” Kramer said. “We have begun working with the city to create a master plan and create some new opportunities in that area. We look forward to doing that in the future.”
He said opportunities exist for expansion of recreational opportunities near Patterson Lake, and pointed to the two-mile Crooked Crane Trail project that will be completed this summer as an example of that.
Like Kramer, Kelly also gave a taste of quality-of-life improvements that could be in Dickinson’s future.
Kelly spoke about the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library project on DSU’s campus and showed renderings of what the library would look like when completed. The project is likely to begin construction on the DSU rodeo grounds near the corner of State Avenue and Fairway Street this summer.
The first project, a replica of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch cabin made out of cottonwood trees found in the Badlands, could begin construction this summer after the final Roughrider Days Rodeo held in June.
The library — which renderings showed would be a large, sweeping structure complete with an all-glass great hall — would be years in the making and Kelly said would require “significant site preparation” as plans require vast landscaping improvements to the 26-acre site.
“As you go by the site now, it’s sort of flat as a pancake and as flat as the top or your table,” he said. “That’ll change significantly as we get into the building of the facility.”
If the library comes to fruition as planned, Thiel said Dickinson has more than enough hotels to give visitors a place to stay. She said the city has 1,773 rooms available at 21 lodging properties — a 135 percent increase from 2004.
However, the city’s hotel occupancy rate dropped 32.5 percent from 2014 to 2015 because of the decrease in the area’s oil activity. With that in mind, Thiel said the CVB’s advertising push in print, online and social media has been to promote Dickinson’s hotel availability.
“We really try to educate people in the state about that,” she said.
Orton, who closed the speeches by talking about the progress the new Heritage Foundation is making, said part of maintaining Dickinson’s quality of life is for the university to find and retain students who want to stay in the city after they graduate.
“We have students there right now that have stayed through some very hard times,” Orton said. “They stayed because of their true love of DSU and this city. They chose to stay in Dickinson because of their love for the community, because of the quality of life. Those are the people we need to make sure they can stay around, they can continue to build this community 20, 30, 40 years from now.”