SPEARFISH, S.D. (KELO) — Higher fuel prices haven’t seemed to affect the popularity of South Dakota’s state campgrounds.
That’s the answer Scott Simpson gave Friday to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
Commissioner Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion asked the state’s director of parks and recreation whether he’s seen any change among people pulling boats and trailers.
Simpson’s anecdotal answer: “Trip reduction.”
“They’re staying a little more local,” he said. He compared the camping experience to the cost of attending a professional baseball game. “We’re still reasonably priced. We’re available locally to most folks,” he added. “I think it’s a change of plans. I don’t know that it’s a cancellation of plans.”
At about 90,000 units, June was the best month on record for camping at a South Dakota state park or recreation area, according to Simpson. He noted that the new June 19 holiday helped. So did the timing of the July 4th weekend, as many campers decided to get an early start by staying Thursday, June 30, too.
Park visitation in June however was somewhat off, after top back-to-back years. “A little concerning, any time you see a number go backwards,” Simpson said. “But right now, it’s not substantial.”
“I think the rest of the summer looks pretty good for us, barring any weather patterns we don’t have any control over,” he said. “We’re in a real positive space right now. Things are looking good.”
One down note was that the low bid of $5.1 million for the Palisades State Park expansion north of Sioux Falls came in much higher than the $3.7 million that was expected.
Simpson said they’ve gone back to the drawing board and are now trying to split the work between above-ground and underground. That means the 2023 target date will be pushed back to 2024.
“Being responsible with people’s dollars, we think this is the best path forward,” Simpson said. He added, “It’s the economics of what we’re dealing with right now.”