National Parks in South Dakota create “a huge impact on Western South Dakota”

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 6:18 PM CDT
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WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. (KOTA) - National Parks across the United States bring significant economic benefit. According to the National Park Service, In 2021 $42.5 billion was generated because of park tourism, and in South Dakota, that benefit totaled around $301 million.

“Wind Cave National Park supports a little over 500 jobs in 2021 and contributed over 50 million dollars to the area economy,” said Tom Farrell, Chief of Interpretation at Wind Cave National Park.

That was Wind Cave alone, not including the three other national parks and monuments in the Black Hills area. A Park Service Report says In 2021 the four parks and monuments supported over 3,362 jobs.

“And this year we’re up 16% over last year, we have more staff this year. So, even though there’s more people coming through, we’re also able to get more people through the cave,” said Farrell.

And for the influx of visitors, the park is broadening its offerings to visitors. “So, we have Darrell Red Cloud, a descendant of Chief Red Clouds, here three days a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And he is giving talks down at the natural entrance, explaining the importance of Wind Cave to the Lakota people. And when he’s not down at the natural entrance he’s up on our front yard, where we have a tipi set up, talking about the Native American culture.”

With much of the programming in Wind Cave National Park free, the economic impact trickles down into surrounding local communities, and no we don’t mean prairie dog towns.

“And when somebody buys a hotel room, not only are they benefiting the people that own the hotel, but they’re benefiting all the workers that live there, and then those workers go out and spend that money too. So, it kind of cascades down, it has a huge impact on Western South Dakota.” Farrell says that you can see how the national park affects the economy in surrounding towns, by looking at 2019 when Wind Cave National Park’s elevators were out of commission causing a dip in visitors, and that decline was reflected in Hot Springs.

In 2021, visitor spending at Mount Rushmore totaled $164 million, with Badlands National Park taking in $88.3 million and Jewel Cave $7 million.

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