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Lawmakers hearing opposition to campground expansion as House prepares to consider bill

Horsted Barnes Canyon.jpg
Courtesy image
Paul Horsted
Bison graze in a proposed campsite expansion area in Custer State Park.

A legislative committee will hear a bill next week proposing funding for a campground expansion in Custer State Park.

Some lawmakers say they’re flooded with emails about the proposal.

Rep. Marty Overweg, R-New Holland, says he’s gotten a lot of input from constituents. He says most are not in favor of the expansion.

“I’ve received hundreds of emails about this,” Overweg says. “And I’ve only received one out of those hundreds that are for it.”

Overweg says his constituents are mostly concerned about the campground displacing wildlife.

“They’re afraid that with this campground there, when they drive the loop, they won’t see the animals that they do now,” Overweg says.

Overweg says he’s opposed to the proposal, which is a 176-campsite expansion in the Barnes Canyon area of Custer State Park near the airport.

Governor Kristi Noem announced the plan during her budget address in December. Her administration’s bill seeks almost $10 million for the project. That’s about $57,000 per site.

The park is a popular destination in the Black Hills. Game, Fish and Parks officials say campground reservations are booked out a year in advance, making it hard for others to get a campsite.

The proposal garnered concern from nearby private campground owners who don’t want the extra competition. Former park officials and wildlife biologists are also concerned about overcrowding and impacts to the park’s ecology.

Kevin Robling is the secretary of Game, Fish and Parks. He says there’s concern about the location and potential impacts to the park’s elk herd.

“We do want to let people know that we would close this campground from October 1st through April 30th so no disturbance would be in the campground during that wintering time,” Robling says.

A hearing for the bill is set for Tuesday, Feb. 1. The committee meets at 7:45 a.m. Central time.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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