Public meeting to be held addressing overcrowding, sustainability issues at Sylvan Lake

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Custer State Park is visited by nearly 2 million people from around the world each year, and officials say the number of visitors has taken a toll on one of the largest and oldest state parks in America.

The park is currently working to create a Sylvan Lake Master Plan that will address problems that have arisen due to heavy use. The goal is to ensure the sustainability of the recreational area’s natural resources, while also maintaining a high-quality experience for visitors.

Developers are looking for input on the plan, and a public workshop is being held on Thursday to give community members an opportunity to voice opinions about changes to the destination and its facilities.

Some of the concerns the project hopes to address include trail erosion around the lake, which is causing silt buildup in the water. The buildup impacts water quality and can lead to algae problems as it reduces the lake’s depth and flow. Officials are trying to determine whether there may be a better surface for the trail that loops around the water’s edge.

Tree loss from the pine beetle infestation has also caused more silt runoff into the lake, and according to notes from a prior meeting on the master plan, there hasn’t been a water depth survey that would reveal the full extent of siltation buildup.

Parking and traffic are key issues as well, particularly during peak season when the parking lot is regularly maxed out and vehicles line roadsides, and Needles Highway easily becomes congested. One-way traffic on the highway has been considered to help control traffic flow, but has yet to be thoroughly evaluated.

Other topics of discussion include the lack of limitations for helicopters and drones in the Cathedral Spires area, greater wear and tear on fixed climbing gear due to more climbers coming through, and visitors leaving the trails despite signage, which causes damage to delicate plant-life and erosion.

The public meeting will be held in the Aldo Leopold room of the Outdoor Campus from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on July 25. Anyone interested in attending should RSVP by emailing or calling 605-348-2268.

You can visit here to learn more about the Sylvan Lake Master Plan, and you can also take a public survey, which will be used to help develop the project.


Categories: Local News, South Dakota News