Originally written by: Warren E. Williamson

Introduction: In 1981, I made the suggestion to the Executive Board that a history of the South Dakota Park and Recreation Association be researched.  Two years later and after much digging through old materials and numerous delays the following report is presented.  Little did I know that in the space of just a few years that much of the information has disappeared.  The minutes of the Executive Board meetings, workshops and the annual meetings have been the responsibility of the Association Secretary.  The Secretary of the Association is an elective position and has been the roll of many different members, hence the difficulty in retaining thorough and documented records.  It has been suggested at numerous meetings that the Association hire a permanent secretary, but financial considerations have not permitted the creation of such a position.

The above comments are not meant to reflect negatively on the efforts of those members that have served the Association as secretary.  The charge and task of this role is a difficult one.  These persons have willingly served the Association in addition to their full-time professional positions.

The following account of the organization and growth of the Association is by no means as complete as desired.  The writer for accurate reporting and documentation has made a serious attempt.  The writer recommends an ongoing review of the history, a yearly updating and the addition of a copy of all minutes kept of Association meetings.

The writer is indebted to a number of people for their assistance: Billie Kelley, Ken Munro, Allyn Frerichs, Linda Olson, Roger Pierce, Larry Offerdahl.

Respectfully submitted,
Warren E. Williamson
Professor of HPER
South Dakota State University

History of SDPRA 1957 – 1983

The first written documentation of a Park and Recreation organization was found in records in the personal file of Allyn Frerichs.  A spring conference meeting was held at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion on April 26-27, 1957.  Theme conference was, “Better Recreation and Parks for South Dakota”.  Costs for the conference are interesting; registration fee was $1.50, luncheon $.85, dinner $1.50 and lodging in a university dormitory $1.00 per night.

H.E. Thurston was elected President and Dr. John Van Why served as the conference chairman.  Topics at the conference included:  How to Implement the purpose of the South Dakota Park and Recreation Society, (note the name), The Philosophy of Recreation, The Philosophy of Park Facilities, Playground Problems, Summer Athletic Programs and Park Problems.

This organization was unable to generate interest, support, and continuity and failed to develop as a statewide organization.  The membership was primarily people working in the area of municipal recreation.

Don Erickson, recreation director at Watertown, is given credit for the initiative to develop an association.  In a letter to the Mayor of Watertown Don suggested that a Recreation Association be formed at the Annual Meeting of the Municipal League.  If this wasn’t possible, then a combined Park and Recreation Association be formed.

Letters of support for an association were solicited from mayors, city council members, and commissioners.  Governor Nils Boe wrote in support of forming an association.  Verna Rensvold, District Representative to the National Recreation association, carried out a great deal of correspondence across the state in support of the association.  Letters in the files indicate that there was opposition on the part of some city commissioners to the formation of a Park and Recreation Association.  Quote, “City departments are managed by appointed boards and it does not seem to me that they should nor should we encourage an association which could very easily become autonomous”.

At the Annual Meeting of the Municipal League in Watertown, approval was given and plans made for such an association. October 2, 1965, was the date on which the South Dakota Park and Recreation Association was started.  In a letter from Robert C. Walz, Executive Director of the municipal League, dated October 6, 1965, he offered congratulations to Don Erickson for being elected President of the newly formed association.

The South Dakota Park and Recreation Association was closely allied with the municipal League for a number of years. Annual meetings of the association were held in conjunction with the league meetings. The following statement indicates the relationship as noted in League Executive Director Walz’s letter to Erickson; “I should like to take this opportunity to offer my services and facilities of the South Dakota Municipal League to your organization and to your membership.”  In an executive Board meeting held in 1974 it was decided to separate the annual meeting of the association from that of the league.  Provisions were made that a representative of the association attend the annual meeting of the league each year.

Officers elected for the first year of the South Dakota Park and Recreation Association were:  Donald Erickson, recreation Director, Watertown, President; Allyn Frerichs, Superintendent Parks and Recreation, Brookings, Secretary -Treasurer; Ken Munro, Superintendent Parks and Recreation, and Milo Norwick, Recreation Director, both of Sioux Falls were assigned the task of reviewing and making recommendations for By-Laws of the association.

Early members of the association showed a great deal of enthusiasm.  An ambitious membership drive was started along with programs and meeting plans.  It is dangerous to enumerate members that contributed greatly to the formation and early development of the association.  In spite of the fear of overlooking someone, the writer would be remiss if an attempt was not made to recognize the efforts of persons that pioneered the development of the association.

Early Association Leaders
Don Erickson                     Recreation Director                                             Watertown
Allyn Frerichs                   Superintendent Parks and Recreation             Brookings
Ken Munro                        Superintendent Parks and Recreation             Sioux Falls
Milo Norwick                     Recreation Director                                            Sioux Falls
Bert Wrede                        Recreation Director                                            Rapid City
Don Gannon                       Superintendent Parks and Recreation            Vermillion
Oris Scherschlight            Director Parks and Recreation                          Pierre
Jack Kunhart                     Superintendent Parks and Recreation            Huron
Ray Palmer                        Superintendent Parks and Recreation            Vermillion
Stephan Nemeth               Recreation Director SDS Training School       Plankinton
Joe Collins                          Superintendent Parks and Recreation            Mitchell
Denver Bennett                 Recreation Director                                           Aberdeen

Charter Members of the Association
Don Erickson, Sioux Falls
Allyn Frerichs, Brookings
Ken Munro, Sioux Falls
Milo Norwick, Sioux Falls
Bert Wrede, Rapid City
Don Gannon, Vermillion
Oris Scherschlight, Pierre
Denver Bennett, Aberdeen
J.D. Whitmore, Sioux Falls
J.P. Brown,  Sioux Falls
John Younger, Brookings
Ted Straub, Eureka
David Kruger, Pierre
Ken Munro, Sioux Falls
Joe Collins, Sioux Falls
LeRoy C Johnson, Brookings
Bob Waltz, Brookings
Don Collogan, Hot Springs
Philip Doto, Huron
Jim Martin, Brookings
Ervin C Kuhnert, Aberdeen
Mrs. Winifred Smith, Sioux Falls

Past Presidents
1965          Don Erickson                      Watertown Recreation Director
1966          Don Erickson                      Watertown Recreation Director
1967          Allyn Frerichs                    Brookings Superintendent Parks and Recreation
1968          Milo Norwick                     Sioux Falls Recreation Director
1969          Ken Munro                         Sioux Falls Superintendent Parks and Recreation
1970          Jerry Sour                          Madison State Park Manager
1971          LeRoy Vollmer                    Pierre State Department Parks and Recreation
1972          Don Gannon                        Aberdeen Parks and Recreation
1973          Ken Mickelson                    Watertown Parks and Recreation
1974          David Sears                         Yankton Parks and Recreation
1975          LeRoy Benson                     Huron Superintendent Parks and Recreation
1976          Lee Krachtovil                    Bruce State Park Manager
1977          Roger Pierce                       Yankton Superintendent Parks and Recreation
1978          Linda Olson                         Brookings Assistant Professor of HPER, SDSU
1979          Lowen Schuett                    Pierre State Director of Parks and Recreation
1980          Larry Offerdahl                  Mitchell Superintendent Parks and Recreation
1981          Larry Weires                       Sioux Falls Park and Recreation Planner
1982          Dave Kruger                        Pierre Park Planner
1983          Gayle Wiedow                     Vermillion Professor of HPER, USD


From 1965 through 1974, the annual meetings of the association were held at a site established by the South Dakota Municipal League.  In addition to the annual meeting of the association, spring meetings are rotated from city to city with a number of them being hosted by the city of Brookings and South Dakota State University.

Article 5 of the constituent and by-laws provided for an executive board; stating there shall be an executive board consisting of the officers, the immediate past president, chairman of all standing committees.  The executive board has met consistently over the years to plan and give direction to the affairs of the association.

Annual meetings have rotated to cities across the state.  The executive board solicits and accepts invitations from cities have been the site for annual conferences:

1965          Watertown
1966          Lead
1967          Sioux Falls
1968          Pierre
1969          Sturgis
1970          Huron
1971          Aberdeen
1972          Mitchell
1973          Brookings
1974          Sioux Falls
1975          Watertown
1976          Huron
1977          Brookings
1978          Yankton
1979          Rapid City
1980          Aberdeen
1981          Sioux Falls
1982          Pierre


From the beginning, the association, under ambitious leadership, has actively pursued goals and objectives that serve the park and recreation needs of the State of South Dakota.  The dedicated efforts of many park and recreation professionals, students, lay people, and industry related persons have certainly contributed to the lifestyle of the citizens of the state.  There have been problems and there have been challenges, which the association has dealt with as fairly and equitably as possible.  The following activities of the association seem pertinent for reporting:


An organization is only as strong as its membership.  Minutes from early association meetings indicate the importance of identification of potential members and the aggressive pursuit of the same.  Twenty-one persons are identified as Charter members of the association.  A membership goal of 200 was set for 1981 and surpassed that year when a record high was set of 214.  Original membership designation were as follows:

A.  Individual membership dues        $2.00

B.  Sustain group membership         $10.00

C.  Associate Individual membership dues     $2.00

D.  Sustaining associate membership dues $2.00

E.  Student Membership dues $1.00

F.  Contributing membership dues $ 25.00

Increased interest on the part of students and the addition of several branch sections in recent years has increased membership.  There were 40 student members listed in 1982.

Branch Sections

As early as 1973 students were taking an active role in the association.  A student from this section of the association has been represented on the executive board since 1975.  The following students have taken active roles in the association:  Larry Offerdahl, Ann Wenzel, Paula Eich, Kim Konold, Mitzi Frank, Patty Kaul, Mike Jennings, Brenda Thomas, Roger Adams.

Several attempts have been made to activate a therapeutic Branch in the association.  Bob Reimers of the VA Hospital in Sioux Falls has actively worked in this section.

In 1980, association president Larry Offerdahl welcomed the addition of the cemetery Branch to the association.


One of the most controversial issues to come before the association was the study and implementation of a registration plan for professional and technical members of the association.  A study committee chaired by Dr. Paul Nordstrom, was established in 1974 and charged to report their recommendation to the membership at the 1975 annual meeting.  The recommendation was to implement the registration plan outlined by the NRPA guidelines.  The guidelines made it difficult, if not impossible, for some association members to become registered.  After a heated discussion, the association voted to accept and implement the registration plan.

A registration committee consisting of Allyn Frerichs, chairman, Warren Williamson and jerry Sour was established.  The committee was charged to review all applications for registration and to recommend to the association at the annual meeting each year registration for those persons meeting the requirements.  The first members registered were presented their certificates at the 1976 annual meeting.

Classifications for registration were:  professional, administrator, educator, supervisor, and specialist.  In the technical classification, a member may become registered as a technical administrator, a supervisor, or a specialist.


Over the years, the association has encouraged and supported research related to parks and recreation.  A variety of projects have been studied, reported and have contributed to the interests and needs of the state of South Dakota.


In 1978, the association approved awarding two-$200 scholarships for students majoring in park or recreation programs in a South Dakota institution of higher education.  The criteria for granting the scholarships are academic excellence and professional potential.  The scholarship program was started in the fall of 1979.  The scholarships are awarded during the banquet at the association annual meeting each fall.  Doug Lybeck of Lybeck and associates established a scholarship for $100 annually for a qualified student.  The first Lybeck Scholarship was awarded in 1982.


A most important function of the association for all members has been the newsletter, SPARK.  The association newsletter was started in 1970 with Allyn Frerichs serving as the first editor.  The newsletter published quarterly was funded for many years out of membership dues.  In 1981, the executive board agreed that the newsletter should be self-supporting and that advertising be solicited from park and recreation related industries.


At the 1974 annual meeting of the association the membership voted to establish a Meritorious Service Award.  An award committee was established sand charged top place nomination to the executive board the name of the person or persons to receive this recognition each year.  The purpose of the meritorious service award was to recognize persons that have made outstanding contributions to parks and recreation in the state.  The meritorious service award is presented during the banquet at the annual association meeting each year.  The first award was presented in 1978.

Legislation and lobbying efforts 

In 1978, the association approved the registration of an association member to serve as a lobbyist at the legislative session.  The association’s first registered lobbyist was Bill Echert.

History of SDPRA 1984 – 2003

This SDPRA Historical Update is written at the request of Jim Goblirsch, 2003 President of the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association, as a service to the membership. The official history written by Professor Warren Williamson and entitled “A HISTORICAL LOOK AT THE SOUTH DAKOTA PARKS AND RECREATION ASSOCIATION” covered the years from 1957 – 1983.

Warren understood the value of the lessons learned over time and was committed to preserving them.  In his introduction of the first edition of the history, he stated “Little did I know that in the space of just a few years much of the information has disappeared.”   As I embarked on the task of updating the history, little did I expect that I would face the same dilemma as I tracked down records that I had thrown away, assuming that “someone else” had kept them!  That elusive “someone else” turned out to be many friends and associates within the profession. I begin this SDPRA Historical Update with a heartfelt THANK YOU to Randy Ahrendt and LaRon Klock for providing over 10 years worth of records.  I am also indebted to Linda Olsen Sandness, Dr. Gale Wiedow, Susie Garry, Kristi Palmer, Lon Van Duesen, Gene Morsching, Roger Pierce, Dave Enke, and John Simpson for the records and information they provided.

Facts and figures form the foundation of this update — although I’m sure there are stories to be told and memories held in our hearts as our Association grew through the 80’s, grappled with the challenges of the ’90s, and strode into the new millennium.  Perhaps some of these facts and figures will stir a particular memory in your heart.  If not — it’s never too late to start creating new ones!

Billie Kelly, Mitchell



  1. “Life, Be In It” was adopted at the National Level as the official promotional campaign of Parks and Recreation.  These cute and cuddly “normal people” were seen in all types of recreational settings — from boating and camping to tennis and basketball. Enjoyment of everyday life activities was the focus. Although it was noted that every single character in the “Life, Be In It” campaign seemed to be dramatically out of shape, we all proudly wore the colorful shirts and used the logos — on EVERYTHING!


  1. SDPRA researches involvement with the newly established South Dakota Lottery
  2. NYSCA first implemented in South Dakota


  1. The South Dakota Therapeutic Recreation Society is formed as a branch of SDPRA, with a first year membership of 18


  1. Parks & Recreation liability issues move to the forefront, with articles from James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D. regularly included in the SDPRA Journal.
  2. The “fitness craze” of the late 80’s bumps the “Life. Be In It” people out of the forefront   – or perhaps they all got in shape and we simply didn’t recognize them anymore!
  3. Dr. Joe Passineau coordinates the first annual “Walk South Dakota” program, in conjunction with the Black Hills Volksport Association.


  1. The first Annual Pool Workshops and Lifeguard Awareness Workshops are hosted in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.  Barb Hermanson and Lori Coble play key roles.  These workshops continue to be major fund-raisers for the Association.
  2. SDPRA members join the newly established Aquatic Section of the MidWest Region, chaired by Ruthie Rogers of Colorado.
  3. The Red Cross Lifeguard Training Course is introduced in South Dakota.


  1. President George H. Bush signs into law the “Americans with Disabilities Act” on July 26 — having a dramatic impact on the way Parks & Recreation agencies look at their world and do business.
  2. Curt Siebel of PRS Associates, in cooperation with Linda Olsen Sandness, Scholarship Chair, establishes the PRS Associates Scholarship for Students.


  1. First Annual SDPRA Maintenance School, chaired by Rick Collignon and Dave Fischer, hosted in Sioux Falls.  This workshop continues to generate significant revenue for the Association.
  2. Cost of a double room at the State Conference was $47.
  3. Gale Wiedow represents SDPRA as Governor George Mickelson establishes the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.
  4. Began the first “full service” agreement with NYSCA, efforts spearheaded by J.D. O’Grady.


  1. SDPRA joined in a brief to the South Dakota Supreme Court supporting the State’s right to preserve railroad rights-of-way for public transportation purposes, facilitating the construction of recreational trails.  SDPRA President Dave Johnson stated “While it is always difficult to join in controversy, the outstanding recreational opportunities this case addressed were of National significance.  The court’s decision supported the State, recognizing the public value of such rights-of-way, and opening the way for new rail trail developments across the state and even the nation.  SDPRA can be proud of their participation in this effort.”
  2. Hershey Track meet reaches all-time high participation, with 41 communities hosting local meets.
  3. Yankton “breaks the mold”, inviting paid national speakers to participate as presenters for the first time at the State Conference — conference expenses soar to $18,000  — but revenues also soar to $19,000 ! (figures include membership dues).
  4. Frank Cosgrove retires as Midwest Regional Director after 17 years of service.  Dr. Kent Blumenthal is hired in that position, and travels to the fall conference in Yankton to meet with SDPRA.  Apples seem to play a key role in the introduction of Dr. Blumenthal to South Dakota.


  1. Dr. Gale Wiedow steps down as Publications Chair after 10 years of service in that capacity.  Loren Beard accepts the position.  The Journal changes names and formats, and becomes “Perspectives”.


  1. The Association contributes efforts and finances toward the defeat of Initiative One, which would have dramatically impacted Parks and Recreation funding.


  1. The first RDT Network televised Executive Board Meeting increases technological awareness and saves on travel expenses as 5 sites are utilized throughout the State.
  2. NRPA introduces “The Benefits Are Endless” promotional campaign, encouraging professionals to emphasize not what we do (the actions) but rather what we accomplish (the results, the benefits) in individuals and communities.
  3. The Board influences the passage of SB246 which became law on July 1 — regarding liability issues in State Parks.


  1. The “Doc” Nordstrom Scholarship is initiated through SDPRA, with fundraising efforts spearheaded by Roger Adams.
  2. Dr. Kent Blumenthal accepts a new position as National Director of NIRSA.  Dick Horton is hired as the new Midwest/Southwest Regional Director


  1. SDPRA operating budget is $22,000 — Total Current Assets are $30,850.
  2. The National Congress in Miami Beach is cancelled due to Hurricane Georges.
  3. Maria Stamats is named Acting Director for NRPA’s Regional office.
  4. Doug Hofer and Randy Ahrendt work diligently toward the passage of HB 1137 which amends the definition of “outdoor recreation purpose” in South Dakota to include skateboarding, in-line skating, and sledding.
  5. National legislation efforts focus on CARA, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act.


  1. Loren Beard resigns as Publications Chair for the “Perspectives” journal after 6 years of service.  The future of the newsletter is a topic of research


  1. SDPRA develops a Web Page for members and promotional purposes.


  1. The Association travels out-of-state for the Fall Conference, which is a joint conference with colleagues from North Dakota in Fargo.
  2. The first statewide S.D. Xtreme Games are held.  Dakota Fence sponsors shirts for the Games, which are coordinated in 5 locations throughout the state.
  3. The newsletter is replaced with an online newsletter, “Quick Hits“, developed by Jim Goblirsch.


  1. The first statewide Performing Arts Tour is sponsored through the efforts of Susie Garry and Dave Eckert.  “Penny and Pals” is selected as the entertainer and provides shows in 12 communities affiliated with SDPRA.

History 2004 – Present


  • The Association introduces two new Awards at it’s Conference in Huron. One being the Hall of Fame Award and the other the Years of Service Award.
  • The Association sends a letter to support and encourage the combining of the Park Management and Public Recreation Majors at South Dakota State University.
  • A letter was sent to Yankton officials to show support for keeping the Parks and Recreation Director in their Department.


  • Continued to show support for keeping the Parks and Recreation Director position in Yankton. Yankton did fill the position in 2005.
  • Continued to show support for combining the Park Management and Public Recreation Majors at SDSU. The programs were combined in the Fall Semester.
  • Sent letter to support fully funding the LWCF for 2006. It was in danger of being cut from the Federal budget. It was partially funded for 2006.
  • New Committee Branch for Community Recreation Centers was begun with John Small from Watertown as the chairperson.
  • A plaque with the names of those inducted into the SDPRA Hall of Fame will be displayed in the SD Hall of Fame in Chamberlain.
  • SDPRA Board and Members donated a total of $1180.50 to the Katrina Relief fund that assisted park and recreation programs effected by the hurricane.


  • Set a record for membership in the association at 233 members.
  • Achieved the most student participation at the state conference (33).
  • Midwest Region started it’s own governing of the Midwest Regional Conference, since NRPA decided to discontinue sponsorship of the event.
  • SDPRA sent letters to State Senate Affairs Committee to show our opposition to State Bill 188.  This was an act to prohibit governmental entities from selling certain goods, commodities, and services to the general public.