Noem’s push to build campsites at Custer State Park upsets campground owners

The Visitor Center is currently closed in Custer State Park.
The Visitor Center is currently closed in Custer State Park.(KOTA)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 7:30 PM CST
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CUSTER, S.D. (KOTA) - A large increase in tourists is prompting Governor Kristi Noem to push for almost $10,000,000 to add additional campsites to Custer State Park, but not everyone is happy about it.

Steve Saint, the owner of Fort Welikit Family Campground and president of the South Dakota Campground Owners Association opposes this move.

He said that on top of a large campsite disturbing wildlife in the state park, this is asking taxpayers that own campsites to fund a campground that would directly affect their businesses.

The state park doesn’t charge as much as private campgrounds and owners fear tourists will naturally go to the cheaper sites.

Saint claimed private sectors are working on the demand of the surge in tourists and small businesses don’t need to compete with the state.

“The stated touted small business and Governor Noem touts’ small business, so should we take a step back and look at what this is going to do to small business. I think that would be our biggest concern before we rush into something and then lives are affected, and wildlife is affected small businesses. You know, they’re a lot of cogs in this wheel that I don’t think a lot of people truly know what it’s about,” expressed Saint.

He suggested a possible solution is to conduct a study and see how private sectors can keep up with the demand for tourism so the state wouldn’t need to step in.

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