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Today’s the deadline to qualify for this month’s debate, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang made it - the only non-white candidate who’ll be on stage. Plus, former Secretary Julián Castro questions the order of primary contests.

SD's Badlands Among National Parks with Overdue Maintenance

South Dakota's Badlands is one of 400 sites within the National Parks system, which includes 28,000 buildings and 18,000 miles of trails.  (nationalparks.org)
South Dakota's Badlands is one of 400 sites within the National Parks system, which includes 28,000 buildings and 18,000 miles of trails. (nationalparks.org)
November 19, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. – Revenues from tourism are expected to be up in South Dakota this year over 2017, but concern that overdue maintenance at national parks might eventually reverse that has advocates calling on Congress to pass a funding bill.

The Restore Our Parks Act has gotten through committees with bipartisan support, but with time running short in this session, it still needs approval on the House and Senate floor.

Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, wants Congress to make park maintenance funding a priority before adjournment next month.

"The longer we put off fixing roads and bridges, and pathways and visitor centers and everything that makes up any sort of National Park Service unit, the more challenging and daunting the task is," he stresses.

The bill provides up to $6.5 billion over five years from oil and gas royalties that aren't already obligated.

Marcia Argust, project director of the Restore Americas Parks Campaign at The Pew Charitable Trusts, says South Dakota's six national parks are a huge economic boon to the state.

"South Dakota welcomes over 4 million visitors to its national parks each year,” she points out. “Those visitors spend almost $300 million in local communities and generate approximately 4,500 jobs."

In recent years, South Dakota's 244,000 acre Badlands National Park has become increasingly popular, annually topping 1 million visitors, but Hagen says the park needs maintenance attention if that's going to continue.

"When visitors experience it, they say, 'It is truly otherworldly,” she relates. “’We have not seen anything else like it in the country.'

“And when people come and experience those parks, it's a positive experience and that they don't leave with a negative experience saying, 'Oh my goodness, this place is falling apart.'"

More than 90 percent of respondents in a recent Pew survey said it's important to maintain trails, roads, historic buildings, campgrounds and other park infrastructure.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD