State parks and rec areas are likely to cost more next year in South Dakota

Capitol News Bureau
KELO money 100 dollar bills

CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (KELO) — People who use state parks and state recreation areas in South Dakota could face higher prices come 2020.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission unanimously approved increases for many of the entrance fees and camping fees Thursday.

The higher prices would generate about $3 million if the same numbers of people use the state system next year.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee has final say on whether the new prices take effect. The panel’s final meeting of 2019 is set for November 4.

Scott Simpson, who was promoted to parks and recreation director this year, warned the commission the $3 million won’t fix the existing shortfall.

“We are not going to get caught up with this increase,” Simpson said.

He said the parks division will put out more detailed information than in the past about improvements planned for the coming year.

Simpson said he didn’t want to seek fee increases during his first months as director. But after years in the Wildlife Division’s rungs, he found when he crossed to the parks side how much a financial boost was needed.

“We’ve got millions and millions of dollars of roads that need attention,” he gave as one example.

Commissioner Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton said South Dakota’s parks system is “exceptional” but is cautious about raising prices too much.

Boyd asked Simpson how South Dakota compared to other states.

“I think we’re right in the ballpark,” he replied. He said Nebraska and North Dakota’s annual entrance stickers are $35 and Wyoming’s are $33. South Dakota would rise to $36 from the current $30 under the plan.

Commissioner Scott Phillips of rural New Underwood said the public’s comments on the proposal were “refreshing” to read. Phillips told Simpson to keep citizens informed about what his division has coming.

“Let ’em know. Keep those public and I think we’re going to have a lot of support,” Phillips said.

Simpson reply included the line, “We’re about creating memories.” Then he began to talk about the nightmare that a late winter and the wet spring and summer have brought to the parks system.

He said an average winter could mean more trouble next spring for some. He shut down some parks in September because of flooding.

“I don’t know anybody’s seen that before,” Simpson said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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