SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Some South Dakota residents can go to the library in order to visit a state park.

Around the state, libraries are participating in a program that will allow residents and library patrons to check out a three-day state park pass to visit a state park. It’s program between the state’s Game Fish and Parks and the state’s library system.

Thirteen of the passes are available in the Siouxland Library system.

“We went with 13, one for each of our branches,” said Beth Berg, the collections librarian for Siouxland Libraries.

Eighty-eight public and academic libraries are participating in the program, said state librarian George Seamon.

“We actually were thinking about 25, 30 at the beginning, then when we got 88, and we thought, ‘This is great,'” Seamon said

“It just goes to show that libraries continue to want to serve their communities and are always looking for new ways to do so. I’m really proud of the libraries for stepping up,” Seamon said.

“It sounded like a really cool (program),” said Jane Norling, the director of the public library in Beresford. “Libraries try to be as well rounded as we can.”

The COVID pandemic reinforced the benefits of being outdoors and good health so this program is a way to help families get outdoors “no matter on the ability to pay,” Norling said.

Libraries were able to select how many park passes they wanted. Some chose one while others, like Siouxland Libraries chose more.

Beresford chose two.

Berg said as of March 23, the passes had not yet been check out, likely because of the winter weather. However, the libraries have gotten questions about the pass program since it was announced at the end of January.

Questions included if a state park pass could be put on hold like a library book, Berg said.

The chances of getting a pass put on hold are better the nearer the use date, Berg said.

For example, a patron could request on Monday for a pass on the following Friday, Berg said. There’s a better chance that pass will be available than if a hold request is made several weeks out before a July 7 request date, she said.

The program at all libraries allow for the three-day pass to be checked out once a month.

Berg is familiar with pass programs for museum use in other states. Locally, the Washington Pavilion may be meeting that need with free Friday programs. The state park pass program should be meeting a need, she said.

“Did see other libraries doing this were having success. Just because of the phenomenal beauty and all the state parks that we have here in South Dakota, we thought this was a great opportunity so that families in South Dakota and students in South Dakota could experience the beauty and wonder of our state,” Seamon said. He credited the prior interim state librarian with presenting the state park pass idea to state officials.

“Ultimately, our goal is to provide everyone the opportunity to experience the outdoors through our state parks and recreation areas and this partnership has been an excellent way to accomplish this,” the GFP said in an email statement to KELOLAND News.

Seamon said the program can attract new users to the library as well as new state park pass holders.

If a resident comes to the library for a park pass, they may be encouraged to check out other offerings at the library, he said.

Norling said while she isn’t using the program to market the library, she does see the possibility of attracting people back into the library or new users. They may come in for a pass and notice other services, she said.

Berg said individuals and families can use the state park passes to decide if they want to invest in their own pass.

Seamon also expects libraries to expand on the state park theme by suggesting books about the outdoors or other activities.

Norling said she and her staff are already talking about an April display that will highlight books about camping, hiking and even general exercise.

Some programs in other states may be more restrictive than the South Dakota program. The GFP said in its statement that it chose a three-day pass instead of a one-day pass to allow residents more time to explore state parks.

“We were hoping for five days so that (users) could camp for a couple of days,” Norling said. But three-day passes still provide users an opportunity to explore many parks not far from Beresford, she said.

Norling said a longer-duration pass could be some of the feedback provided by users in the program.

The transferrable pass has a QR code on the back linked to a program survey for feedback, Seamon said. The surveys will also provide other data.

“Each pass issued has a number and check out program decal so the program participation can be tracked accordingly,” the GFP said in its statement.

Some of the best-case scenarios include consistent use of the state park passes, the librarians said.

Norling said the Beresford library is considering the possibility of buying its own third pass if the program is popular enough.

Seamon said all libraries have the option to buy state park passes. The passes in the program are provided to the libraries free of charge through federal COVID relief money and other funds, he said.