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News for January 17, 2022

Custer State Park Expansion Plan Worries Private Campground Owner

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The State Game, Fish, and Parks Department is looking into expanding the campground at Custer State Park, but the plan could be met with opposition from private campground owners.

Officials claim that the camping facilities at the park are at 100% capacity from May until September.

According to a report, the group plans to add 176 campsites to Barnes Canyon.

Game, Fish, and Parks Secretary Kevin Robling said that most campsites are reserved a year in advance.

“Those 12 months go by pretty quickly,” Robling says. “A lot of times, if you’re not on the system, 12 months out on midnight or 12:01 that day, you’re likely not going to have an opportunity to reserve a campsite.”

The expansion of the campground would cost the state around 10 million dollars. If approved, it will increase camping spaces available in this park from 345 to 521. There are 50 cabins located in this park.

The possibility of an increase in the number of state-owned campgrounds is causing at least one nearby campground owner to worry about the future of their property.

Steve Saint owns Fort Welikit Family Campground located right to the park’s south. He is also the president of the South Dakota Campground Owners Association.

He believes that the expansion of the campground is good while outdoor tourism is at its peak. However, Saint anticipates that tourism will decrease in the next five years. The slowdown, he says, will negatively impact privately-owned campgrounds within the region and not the park.

“The private campgrounds are stepping up to handle the influx,” Saint says. “The state park doesn’t need to. Because in five years, that state park is still going to be full, and I’m going to have empty sites.”

“How many campgrounds are going to go under because the state, in five years, finally when things start slowing down—we have direct competition?” Saint adds. “How many campgrounds are going to go out of business because they’re not getting customers because they’re all going to Custer State Park?”

State lawmakers will discuss how to fund the campsites in the coming session. Gov. Kristi Noem stated in her budget speech this month that she was in favor of the proposed funding.

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