For Black Hills Flood survivor Todd Burgess, it’s not a matter of if Rapid Creek floods again, “it’s that it’s going to happen again,” he said.
Burgess is adamant that development not be allowed in the Rapid Creek Greenway, which is why he volunteered his graphic design services to help create a series of 14 educational signs that tell the story of the deadly 1972 flood in words, charts and photographs.
The signs will be installed in July along the bike path from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to Canyon Lake Park.
In the meantime, the public can view replicas of the signs from Friday through Sunday in the lobby of the civic center, which will also be home to displays of personal flood memorabilia and to public programs remembering the flood and the lives lost.
Burgess was 11 years old in 1972, the youngest of six children in a family that lived off Sheridan Lake Road. He said older brother Jim Burgess might not be alive today if he hadn’t come home when the family’s basement flooded; he otherwise would have been with a friend who was killed.
Remembering that night, Todd Burgess said, “I’ve never been as scared in my life, before or since.”
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Also responsible for the signs is Van Lindquist, a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the former manager of the West Dakota Water Development District, former executive director of the Black Hills Council of Local Governments, and a member of the 1972 Black Hills Flood – Remembrance & Renewal Committee.
The idea for the sign project has had support for years, and Lindquist advocated the project as a member of the 2007-2008 Floodplain Development Committee.
“What I hope people learn is that what happened in ‘72 is something that we never, ever want to happen again, and there is a reason we are adamant about protecting the floodway,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist researched and provided Burgess with the information for the signs, which Burgess designed and were then made at cost in New York. Rosenbaum Signs of Rapid City contributed fabrication for the sign frames, Joe’s Sandblasting prepared the surface of the sign frames, RCS Construction will install them and the U.S. Geological Survey’s South Dakota Water Science Center prepared the charts and graphs. Each sign also has a sponsor who paid for the cost of the sign fabrication.
Burgess’ company, Presentations, Inc. of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area, makes museum-quality educational and wayfinding signs.
“I’m a Rapid City boy, all my life,” he said. “Even though I live here, I still think about that. I’ve been telling everybody’s stories here for 20 years, and I wanted to tell one I knew. I thought this would be a good thing, to use what we do as a company to keep this from happening again.”