Commission weighs South Dakota park, camping fees increase

PIERRE (AP) – South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Commission is weighing whether to raise fees by nearly $3 million next year.

The commission says declining revenues and the need to repair flood damage may mean visitors paying more to enter state parks and campgrounds.

Entrance fees and camping fees are the primary funding source for South Dakota's nearly $40 million parks and recreation budget, state Director of Parks and Recreation Scott Simpson said.

"These fees go toward preventive maintenance, the services we provide, the customer experience we provide as well as taking care of other infrastructure needs," Simpson said Tuesday.

Late, wet springs have affected early season park use and damaged infrastructure, according to the commission's proposal. As of July 1, flooding made 10 percent of the system's campsites unavailable for reservation.

The commission said this year's revenues are down nearly $2 million from 2018, and that repairing flood damage is estimated at more than $8 million. Floodwaters inundated parking lots, campsites, roads, boat ramps, electrical pedestals and restrooms, according to the commission.

Park entrance fees were last raised in 2013 and camping fees were last increased in 2014, Simpson said. He noted that in the last decade, the annual park entrance license has increased by $2.

The proposal calls for increasing the annual park entrance license from $30 to $36 and the daily fee from $6 to $8. For preferred campgrounds, the camping fee would rise from $19 to $23, and the fee at modern campgrounds would increase from $17 to $20.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposal. The commission will hold a public hearing Oct. 3 as it finalizes the proposal at its next meeting in Chamberlain. The proposed fee increases would take effect before next camping season.


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