Attendance dropped more than 10 percent at some of South Dakota's major attractions this summer, including state parks. Many parks have had to close due to flooding this year and the low numbers could make it tough to pay for repairs.
"We've been dealt, kind of, a strong hand," district park supervisor Marty Dewitt said. "Flooding has closed several parks throughout the summer. That's tough to come back from."
First, spring flooding closed parks followed by extreme flooding along the Missouri River, which closed even more campsites. And as the water recedes, it's leaving behind a big mess.
Campgrounds in some areas were submerged for months and need to be cleaned up and repaired. All of that takes money. Dewitt says part of the burden is being placed on the open parks to help pick up the slack.
"We are going to have to gear things up and try to improve our attendance and our revenues to help with the overall big picture," Dewitt said.
Palisades State Park stayed fairly busy this Labor Day weekend. The park and others are offering programs to enrich the park experience as well as boost attendance numbers. And while the flooding will forever change the scenery of some state parks, Dewitt says they remain essential to South Dakota.
"So, it is a challenging time for everybody," Dewitt said. "But I think people are really in support of what the parks are all about and, quite frankly, people need parks. And I think they'll make it a part of their lives here and in the years to come."
Next Sunday, Beaver Creek Nature area is hosting the Homesteader Day Harvest Festival. The event attracts thousands of visitors of all ages who want a taste of homestead life and living history.