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SD Seeks Comments on Proposed Fee Increases at State Parks

Ten percent of South Dakota's campsites were unavailable in 2019 because of conditions created after severe spring flooding. (Nate Wek/listen.sdpb.org)
Ten percent of South Dakota's campsites were unavailable in 2019 because of conditions created after severe spring flooding. (Nate Wek/listen.sdpb.org)
September 17, 2019

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota parks saw a decrease in usage this year because of spring flood damage. And now state residents are being asked to comment on a proposed rate increase.

As of July 1, revenue from user fees for entrance and camping were down by nearly $2 million compared with 2018, and the system faces nearly $9 million in flood damage, according to the Game, Fish and Parks department. Deputy Secretary Kevin Robling said the proposal would raise fees by about $3 million per year.

"Our attendance in the parks has been somewhat down because of the weather,” Robling said. “We really didn't have a spring in South Dakota. I mean, we had winter all the way until about the end of April. So we missed quite a lot of camping opportunity even into the early part of May."

Robling said campground fees have not been raised in five years, and park entrance fees have not been raised in six years. Under the proposal, the cost of an annual pass to state parks would increase from $30 to $36, and the daily fee from $6 to $8.

Residents can submit comments about the planned fee increases on the Game, Fish and Parks website through October 3.

Entrance fees provide 84% of the parks' budget, but Robling said spring flooding left many parking lots, camp sites, roads and boat ramps inundated with water.

"We have a bridge that's failing at one of our campgrounds; the only way to get into that campground is to go over that bridge. So, that cut off 140 campsite units,” he said. “To replace that bridge is $1.5 million alone."

South Dakota reports approximately 7.5 million state park visitors annually, who each generate $239 in direct spending for the department. If approved by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission in Pierre on October 3, the fee increases would take effect on January 1, 2020.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD