Friday, December 8, 2023


S.D. governor’s plan to expand Black Hills campground not popular

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.


Mike Gast
Mike Gast
Mike Gast was the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. for 20 years before retiring in 2021. He also enjoyed a long newspaper career, working as a writer and editor at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Montana. He and his wife, Lori Lyon, now own and operate the Imi Ola Group marketing company, focusing on the outdoor industry.



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Duane R (@guest_164122)
1 year ago

Seems to me that the elected officials need to do a better job of explaining the financial benefit to additional campgrounds and sites.

Anyone that resides in, or currently visits the area, yet is opposed to additional campgrounds/sites is a hypocrite. They use facilities that were not there at some point, but are now. So, it is okay for their facility to be built for their use, but no one else gets to come? “I’m here, so close the gates”. Jeesh!

Drew (@guest_164035)
1 year ago

I like the Governor’s idea.

Judy G (@guest_163953)
1 year ago

During my many years as a full-timer, Custer, SD, was my home base. The beautiful Black Hills, the bison herds in Custer State Park, hikes on the Mickelson Trail, doctors in nearby Rapid City – perfect. And the RV parks in Custer are a major source of income/existence for the small town – I stayed at four of them over the years. Although increases in RV tourism makes adding more sites in the park attractive to the state’s budget, I find even the possibility of further spoiling the beauty and tranquility of the park sad and offensive.

The Lazy Q (@guest_163874)
1 year ago

Another politician losing money for their constituents, keep speaking loud dear one.

Spike (@guest_164034)
1 year ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

If you are referring to Trish Ladner, that was my thought exactly. Bite the hand that feeds you. I guess the residents that rely on all those tourist $$$ feel they have plenty. Perhaps the private campgrounds will make additional investment to expand, which would be preferable to government doing it, but not only are most of those already landlocked into their existing hillside space, they most likely don’t see the need to do that and possibly drive down site rates.

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