South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s plan to expand camping at Custer State Park isn’t going smoothly. A panel of South Dakota lawmakers rejected her revised $5 million project Tuesday.
The rejection came after nearly two hours of testimony and debate before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. At the end of the day, committee members voted 9-3 against adding 66 campsites to the park in the Black Hills.
The proposal was supported by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department. But that didn’t sway legislators like Representative Trish Ladner.
“I was elected by the people to represent them in Pierre, and the people of District 30, which Custer State Park is in, have spoken very loudly,” said Ladner, R-Hot Springs.
Governor Noem had initially proposed a $10 million project to add 176 campsites to the park, essentially making a new campground along Wildlife Loop Road. Concerns about increased traffic and adverse effects on wildlife led her to pare down the plan to 66 sites along a new location on the park’s western border.
Park officials said the expansion is needed, since more than 8 million people entered the park in 2021 alone. They also said the addition of 66 campsites would not damage private campgrounds in the region.
A barrage of emails against the plan apparently swayed legislators to oppose the plan.