Campground owners: “state shouldn’t interfere” with private sector

Local campground owners have given resounding feedback on House Bill 1048, that would bring more campsites to Custer State Park.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Governor Kristi Noem has continued to bring proposals forward for legislators to approve a bill that would bring more campsites to Custer State Park.

The governor, along with the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks are advocating for House Bill 1048, which with the way its written, would allocate about $10 million in state funds to bring around 170 campsites to the park.

Csp Campsites 10

But lawmakers say they’ve heard enough feedback from the hundreds of emails that have been coming in on the issue, that this isn’t something that’s supported by the majority of the voters.

“There isn’t support for this,” said State Senator Julie Frye-Mueller, who represents District 30. “I have had one email that was a proponent of this campground, but no one else has been and I don’t think they’re listening.”

Frye-Mueller echoed concerns by the citizens, who are afraid that the new campsites will disrupt wildlife in the current location near Wildlife Loop Road.

On Wednesday, Gov. Noem gave a “flyer” to Frye-Mueller and a few other legislators, that outlined a new proposal for 80 campsites at a new location near Stockade Lake. That proposal called for $5 million in state funds and was pitched, according to Frye-Mueller and Representative Trish Ladner, as a way to replace existing campsites in the area.

Later, another proposal was given to legislators, that cut the number of campsites down to 66 and saved taxpayers around $200,000.

However, that proposal still doesn’t take care of a key issue in competing with private business in the area that’s of major concern to legislators and the private sector.

Both legislators and private campground owners have told NewsCenter1 that they’re concerned of how the state will cover the costs of the campsites, more specifically their pricing and the wildlife that could be impacted.

“They’re taking our money, everybody’s money and just throwing it when they could be using it to rehab some of the parks throughout the entire state,” said Brian Hadrick, the Owner of Spokane Creek Cabins and Campground near Iron Mountain Road. “I doubt there is a park in this state that couldn’t use $1,000,000 of repairs.”

Csp Campsites Proposal 1

FIGURE 1: Proposal number one. The proposal cuts the number of campsites and cost in half of the original bill.

According to Frye-Mueller and her conversations with private campground owners, the average cost of a “luxurious” campsite is around $20,000. Compare that to the first new proposals numbers ($62,500 per campsite; also shown in figure one) or the second proposal (about $72,727; shown in figure 2) and you have about a 260 percent increase.

Csp Campsites Proposal 2

FIGURE 2: Cuts down campsite numbers from 80 to 66.

However, Hadrick says that his main concern is just about the bill or campsites. He says that the state hasn’t managed its current land or parks effectively

Hadrick sighted a specific example in the state’s handling of Lake Hiddenwood, which suffered a dam break in 2018 due to heavy rains that, with the dam break, washed out the only road into the area and also destroyed farmers’ land in the area.

But Hadrick said that overall, the private sector shouldn’t have to compete with the state.

“We should be able to have healthy competition,” Hadrick said. “I love it, but we shouldn’t have to compete with somebody that’s got no accountability for money and just keep spending and spending and throwing and throwing.”

House Bill 1048 has still yet to be heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

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