National Parks Service rejects request for July 4 fireworks at Mount Rushmore
PIERRE, S.D. — A request submitted by the state of South Dakota to hold a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate the Fourth of July this year has been denied by the National Parks Service.
In an article reported by The Hill Friday afternoon, NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost wrote in a letter to the head of the state’s tourism department that NPS is “unable to grant a request to have fireworks at the Memorial.”
Frost also wrote, “Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event. In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial. These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site.”
Although progress is being made, Frost noted that in fighting the pandemic, the situation is still “dynamic” and said it is only prudent to make plans based on the best available science and public health guidance available today.
Governor Kristi Noem’s spokesperson, Ian Fury told The Hill in an email saying, “Gov. Noem will do everything in her ability to ensure that we can celebrate America’s birthday with fireworks at Mount Rushmore.”
Fury also pointed to President Biden’s remarks from Thursday in which the president said that by July 4, there is a “good chance” people can gather with family and friends.
“The best place in America to hold such a special celebration would be Mount Rushmore, fireworks included,” Fury said.
Last year, fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day celebration for the first time since 2009 where they had been previously cancelled due to wildfire risks.
At last year’s event, former President Donald Trump gave a speech, and social distancing and mask wearing were not enforced.
In his letter to South Dakota Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen, Frost said that with such a large gathering, complying with social distancing protocols would be “difficult, if not impossible.”
The news from the NPS comes as Noem, a staunch ally of Trump, has repeatedly touted that the state has not enforced a mask mandate amid the pandemic. Instead, she stated that her office has kept an eye on hospital capacities.
However, of all the U.S. states, South Dakota has had the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita.
South Dakota’s Representative Dusty Johnson and Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds issued a statement after the National Parks Service denied South Dakota’s request to hold a national firework display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day.
“Let’s be clear, this decision is political, not evidence-based,” said the members. “President Biden just said himself that Americans can safely gather by July 4 – what’s changed in a day? Last year, millions watched the celebration in awe, and it’s a shame the administration is denying Americans that opportunity this year.”