Jackley: “Local folks should make the decision” on Hilger’s Gulch

From Today’s KCCR, Attorney General Marty Jackley is weighing in on the new thorny issue of the 2018 Gubernatorial race. The issue of whether or not Hilger’s Gulch in Pierre should go back to a natural state, or continue being watered like a golf course:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has earned his share of scorn, mainly from Pierre residents, since the Hilgers Gulch initiative announcement.


An organized resistance sprung up fast. Hundreds of citizens railed against the plan, voicing their disgust during community meetings and lodging complaints directly to the Bureau of Administration and Daugaard’s office.

One elected official Attorney General Marty Jackley, whom many believe to be running for Governor in 2018, says the Hilgers Gulch initiative should be a local decision…

Read, and listen to Marty Jackley’s comments here.

Marty notes that personally, he thinks “rather than the state making that decision, the local folks should make that decision.”

Wait, what?  Isn’t this state property?  Here’s one issue where Marty and I probably will disagree. I’d say the local people can make the decision – but conditionally.

It’s easy to say you want it kept green with other people’s money. If the city and/or all the people protesting and making it an issue want the area kept lush & green in the punishing Pierre summer heat, I’d say “pony up, and bring your proposal to the table.” Offer to pay for the watering and mowing. That makes it an easily solved decision.

But otherwise, don’t tell your neighbor how he needs to design his landscaping to meet your personal preference.


26 thoughts on “Jackley: “Local folks should make the decision” on Hilger’s Gulch”

  1. The property is owned by THE major employer in the town. Most towns with a major employer show appreciation for the major employer. As one from Pierre in which I have relatives who are now the 6th generation (great great grandfather settled in Pierre before it was a town) and except for about ten years a relative has lived there for 130 years, my roots are deep there.

    Many people who have roots like me take state government for granted and appreciation is seldom expressed if even felt. It really came home to me when I was a state employee.

    State Government in Pierre is similar to Citibank (but even moreso) with regard to being the major employer in town.

    Instead of b—hing, the City should have responded with an offer to take over the expense. They didn’t which is par for the course.

    1. How about the state spend the $50k they are currently spending to water grass on something like shelters for the disabled/abused or animal shelters or something that benefits the people directly. I commend Daugaard for cutting out this wasteful spending.

      Now if he would cut out the $3million to L&S to make the dumb life is better in SD than Mars campaign I would be happier than this grass issue.

      I’m honestly indifferent to the issue as the issue with L&S is much more of a waste.

    2. Troy,

      Your comments about the good people of Pierre are insulting. The fact that you have a long family history with the community does not give you license to bash our citizens for raising legitimate concerns with this plan. I would also add that from my perspective, it is not just the plan, but the way it was rolled out that I find disappointing. Making a major change to a beloved landmark in Pierre without seeking input from those who are going to be directly affected is no way for an elected government to act. And making an end run around the Capitol Restoration and Beautification Commission by labeling the planned changes “maintenance” is very questionable. And finally your suggestion that the city should offer the state free utility services is foolish.

  2. Umm…speaking for those of us in Pierre, its our state too. We live here. We pay taxes. We vote. Just like you do. So don’t be making this out to be as clear cut as you are here. State government is not a private business. And state government needs to be responsive to the voters, whether they live here or elsewhere.

    The state also happens to be our neighbor. We expect the state to be a good neighbor. And I would say that it is a good neighbor, for the most part.

    That said, I’m not a fan of how the State Library and the Capitol Lake Plaza are presently looking. Next step is the Cultural Heritage Center, doing the same thing there. And there aren’t many fans out there. Dead tall grass, no maintenance, not a good look. Same goes for huge parts of the gulch as they exist. They’re doing better this year with all the rain we’ve had. By and large there are acres and acres of untended “prairie” already dominating the landscape in Hilgers Gulch and across the complex.

    We’ve seen what that looks like. And some of us just don’t care for it. Actually a lot of us just don’t care for it.

    1. Pierre does not belong to Daugaard. He is just a temporary resident there. He needs to have more respect for the Pierre residents.

      You know this is absolutely not a budget issue. In fact, one of my spies says it went down like this a few months ago at the Daugaard dinner table:

      Linda had just put the food on the table and Dennis said, “You know, Linda, I think the South Dakota prairie is one of the most beautiful sights anywhere.”

      Linda: “Yes, Dennis, it is.

      Dennis: “Well, I think that we could bring more of that beauty smack dab to the middle of Pierre, even though we are surrounded by an ocean of prairie.”

      Linda: “Wow, that is genius of you!”

      Dennis: “Yep, Hilgers Gulch is the perfect spot for that, well betwixt the homes and the recreation area, the soccer fields and other places where people enjoy walking, biking, skateboarding and such – there is plenty of land for my ‘Prairie In The Middle Of Pierre’ vision.”

      Linda: “This is a wonderful idea, but I wonder if the citizens of Pierre will support it. I guess some of them might like the gulch like it is.”

      Dennis: “Well, I can browbeat the leaders in town and the Republicans will jump on board because I can show it will save money.”

      Linda: “Dennis, you are truly a marvelous man!”

      1. Perfect. I’ve noticed that the Pierre mayor supports the governors plan. Was she at the dinner? Who else was there and did they discuss the Pierre Airport and our terrible airline service?

        1. Did you read where Dennis said he could browbeat the leaders in town? You make that point so well!

          No one was else was invited to dinner for two reasons:

          1. Dennis don’t need no stinking input from anyone and

          2. He is trying to save the state money by hosting less people for dinner.

          1. 2. He is trying to save the state money by hosting less people for dinner.”

            “less people”????

            Yeah, like smaller people!

              1. After you take your civics class on the Constitution & federalism, don’t skip English class!

                Dennis? Yeah , like you and the guv are on a first name basis!

                Miller Lite: tastes great, fewer filling!

                1. My spies tell me that the folks out in Spearfish are keeping Dennis confined and closely guarded tomorrow – as he invades, er, “visits” the newest Capital for a Day city – so he can’t go “fix” their green grass and recreational area problems there.

                  Those folks in Spearfish are smart!

  3. How could the gov influence the Mayor of Pierre? You act like she’s on the payroll or something…

  4. Two things. First, the Governor and staff have either taken the ‘screw ’em’ approach or they are tone deaf on this issue. People in Pierre are mad as hell over this issue, including many former BoA employees and other prominent administration officials.

    Second, if I was the Mayor, I would not want to run for reelection right now. She better hope things cool down or she’ll lose her next race big. The people I talk with believe she’ll do whatever the Gov’s office wants her to do. She is not representing her constituents well at all.

  5. Pierreite:

    I think you need to get the City of Pierre or a group of locals to raise money to keep the Gulch as it is. State taxpayers owe the City of Pierre or its citizens nothing. The Governor would make more total friends in the state by turning off the water and quit mowing it.

    I say this as someone from Pierre and with great affection for Pierre despite its too pervasive attitude the State owes Pierre everything.

  6. Well Troy when the state starts paying impact aid to the county for all the property they own and don’t pay taxes on then you can have your point. As a Hughes county property owner my property tax levies will be greatly inflated because of how much value isn’t taxed. Every time I turn around the state is buying more buildings in this town taking it off the tax rolls. If state government were a business there would be a ton more contribution to the community and its organizations. Ever try raising money for charities and calling the state to pitch in something? Haha!! Plenty of larger towns have corporate citizens that contribute greatly to the town, it’s a poke in the eye for you to say the state is subsidizing Pierre for a little extra park space. And who is taking these numbers as fact? We are talking about less than 2 football fields here and we really believe the state will save $59,000 a year to not irrigate, mow, and spray? BS!!
    Mayor Gill has done virtually nothing as Mayor because she’s too worried about her cushy cabinet job. She’s all about dialogue as long as the state says what goes. There have been zero compromises put forth from the city because she knows this is a train that already left the station.

  7. Troy

    I think you are confusing the issues. This isn’t about what the State owes Pierre. So just stop with that line. This is about being a good neighbor.

    Past that, the state owns and operates lots of properties, in every county, all across the state. And the state acting through whomever, owes it to the taxpaying citizens, in each case, some duty to act in a neighborly fashion. If the state would decide, without input, to make unsightly large scale changes which are not in keeping with the surrounding landscapes, its prior practices and the interests of its neighbors, to any of its properties across the state, those affected neighbors would be chapped. And rightly so.

    I don’t agree with you or buy the line that there are more total friends to be made by doing as you say. I don’t buy it at all. People in this state overwhelmingly vote for green grass, every day with their own mowers, their own hoses and sprinklers and their own fertilizer.

    We have a right to expect the state government to be responsive to its citizens, just like anyone else.

  8. BK,

    I hear you. Being a good neighbor though is a two way street. Just remember it will take one legislator to strike maintenance from the annual budget and we’ll see what the legislative vote will be.

    And, I’m not so sure that everyone will agree the change is unsightly. I don’t and I’m not so sure a majority will either.

  9. I think Troy is right, The City of Pierre and or some group needs to pony up some of the cost of maintaining the park. maybe a 50/50 split?

    1. The reality is many have suggested such a partnership to the City, but the Mayor rejects any and all suggestions. Most of us believe it’s because her job as a member of Daugaard’s cabinet. The citizens of Pierre would back the commission cutting a deal with the State to provide water. Most of us don’t believe it will cost $50k and so far nobody has provided actual water bills — because they probably can’t. I suspect they don’t have a water meter on just that specific property. So yes, I think the people in Pierre would pony up for the cause if we actually had a Mayor and commissioners that would represent our interests.

  10. If you believe the 50k number is anything more than a cobbled together figure to respond to complaints the state never saw coming you are easily led. I heard the gov on local radio he was throwing numbers around like someone searching for a reason to justify the action taken when no opposition was foreseen.

  11. Troy

    A two way street? Where does that come from?

    When a majority of houses with yards in SD stop watering, kill their bluegrass, and switch to buffalo grass, I’ll be a believer in your numbers.
    Until then, I’ll continue to believe my eyes which tell me that people are spending lots of their own time and money to mow, water, fertilize and maintain their beautiful lawns.

    People expect that level of maintenance from themselves, their neighbors, their municipalities and their state.


  12. Jim,

    My comments were not intended to be complimentary and if you find them insulting, so be it.

    1). THIS IS A GULCH and it isn’t a landmark. Who are you kidding? The Capital Building is a landmark, the dam is a landmark. This is a walking path in a gulch.

    2). If the Capitol Beautification and Restoration has any say over lawn care and landscaping on Gulch’s blocks away from the Capitol Building, I am all for restricting their authority and purview. If this is even a public argument, you are about to get your head handed to you. The rest of the state will find it bureaucrats run amok.

    3). If my neighbor wants to cut down a tree in his yard that gives me evening shade, he doesn’t have to ask for my permission. If I thought the presumption of most of the attitude in Pierre was as I have seen on the blogs and the Governor needs to get your approval, I would be urging my legislator to put in a bill to MANDATE all lawn care cease and allow it to return to a natural state. And, trust me here, if one legislator puts this in, it will pass at levels more than enough to sustain a veto.

    1. Troy,

      1. Hilgers Gulch is a Pierre landmark. Maybe it isn’t if you live in SF, but in Pierre, it is. We can agree to disagree on that point… at least I can.

      2. I am always happy to have my head returned to me… thanks. However, I think what we have in this case could more accurately be described as arrogance of power rather than bureaucrats run amok.

      3. Your reasoning has a major flaw. Governor Daugaard and the BOA are not private landowners. They don’t own Hilgers Gulch; they have been given temporary authority to manage it. This is probably why the Legislature requires major changes to be approved by the Capitol Restoration and Beautification Commission. So we don’t have administrations making major changes every 4 to 8 years. A more accurate analogy would be to say a leaseholder 5 years in to a non-renewable 8 year lease decides he doesn’t want to mow and water the lawn anymore, so he decides to hose it down with roundup and allow it to return to a natural state. And finally, I suspect if a legislator was receiving calls from a constituent urging them to put in a bill to MANDATE that all lawn care cease and to allow the entire capitol complex to return to a natural state??? That legislator would probably start screening their calls.

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