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Cold Spring Shrunk Tourism

July 7, 2011, 6:25 PM by Austin Hoffman

Cold Spring Shrunk Tourism
Our cool wet spring was bad for one of South Dakota's largest industries, tourism. The black hills was one of the areas hardest hit.

Nearly every tourism hot spot we found numbers for saw a drop this May over last year. One of the hardest hit was Custer State Park.

While it has much more to offer than place to pitch your tent, it been a slow start to the tourism season.

"Our may was down about 19 percent traffic wise," the park's Visitor Services Coordinator Craig Pugsley said.

And even though it's sunny now, Pugsley said that wasn't the case a few months ago.

"This May, as it was across the state, it was pretty wet, pretty cold, we just had a down year for May," Pugsley said.

He relates it to farming or ranching. Some years are just better than others and you have to play the hand Mother Nature deals you. He said the park offers outdoor recreation and when the weather is bad, people generally find something do to with a roof over their head.
But things have come around. Over the 4th of July weekend they broke last year’s record by more than 300 visitors.

"Starting about the 17th of June we've run at or near capacity at our campgrounds every day of the week. And our 4th of July weekend was a game buster. We were full early in the weekend and ran at capacity through the 4th of July weekend," Pugsley said.

And after two straight record years, he said they'll just have to wait and see what the rest of the summer brings.

"Our camping reservations are running strong, Rally looks good. So all in all we're very optimistic for another super season here at Custer State Park,"

Looking at some other tourism destinations, Mt. Rushmore was down around 18 percent in May, Badlands National Park was down around 19 percent and traffic at the Rapid City Regional Airport was down around 14 percent.

We also spoke with officials from our state tourism office. They said their indicators show that July and August should be strong months. Many people are making last minute bookings.
National Park Numbers.pdf

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