CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. (KELO) — Wildlife enthusiasts are speaking out after Governor Kristi Noem proposed a new campground in Custer State Park. However, tourism could benefit from the addition of 176 potential campsites.
All year long, wildlife roam the grounds of Custer State Park. It’s a sight that attracts visitors from across the country.
“Last time I was in Custer State Park last summer, it was busier than heck. Shoulder to shoulder people, which is good for people if you’re in that business but if you’re in the wildlife business and like to see wildlife, it’s not necessarily the best thing. Because as infrastructure grows, road grows, wildlife gets pushed out,” Hesla said.
Chris Hesla is the Executive Director of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation. He is opposed to the plan to create more campsites at the park.
He says his main concern is with the location of the proposed campground at Barnes Canyon along the Wildlife Loop Road. He says, that’s where a lot of the animals gather.
“Definitely the position of where they want to place it right now. And really the addition of any campsites. The land can only provide so much to people. It’s either going to be a paved parking lot or paradise,” Hesla said.
Last year was a record setting year for tourism in South Dakota. Places out here in the Black Hills also saw an impact.
Whether it was shops, restaurants or campsites, the increase in visitors brings more revenue to local communities, like Rapid City.
“What Visit Rapid City does is we promote travel and tourism for Rapid City and the Black Hills region so whatever is right for our area and all of the residents is good for tourism. So as long as there is a sound reasoning and everything is well thought out, it will be good for the area,” Stacie Granum, Interim CEO of Visit Rapid City, said.
Game, Fish and Parks is seeking about $10 million in state money for the proposed campground.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is expected to discuss the proposed campground this week in Pierre.