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Forest Official Voices Frustration About Rushmore Fireworks

A past fireworks show at Mount Rushmore.

The head of the Black Hills National Forest said Wednesday he was frustrated with a lack of communication about a summer fireworks event planned for Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

The National Park Service oversees Mount Rushmore. But the Forest Service manages most of the land around it.

Jerry Krueger is acting supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest. He wanted information from the Park Service about the July 3 fireworks show. But Krueger said the Park Service declined to participate in Wednesday’s meeting of the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board.

“We’re about 42 days out from this event, and we really have not been included in any of the planning,” Krueger told the board. “I’m just voicing that frustration because it’s a major event with a lot of implications and potentially a lot of impact on the forest.”

Krueger predicted 10,000 to 15,000 people will find a vantage point to watch the fireworks. Many of them could be on national forest land.

After the Wednesday meeting, SDPB sought comment from the Park Service. Maureen McGee-Ballinger, the spokeswoman for Mount Rushmore, responded Thursday morning.

“The Forest Service is a great partner with the National Park Service. They are right on our borders. We work very well with them,” McGee-Ballinger said. “And the Forest Service was included and is included with our incident management team.”

SDPB then called Krueger, who was the deputy supervisor of the forest before being installed recently as acting supervisor. He said his predecessors had apparently been kept up to speed, be he hadn’t.

“As of this morning, about an hour ago, I got a very nice phone call from the incident management team lead,” Krueger said, “and so I’ve been fully briefed on what their plan is, and I’ve got two other planning meetings this morning.”

There hasn’t been a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore in 11 years. The Park Service discontinued the annual displays because falling embers were causing fires in the surrounding forest that firefighters had to put out. A chemical in the fireworks was also polluting water sources, and debris from exploded fireworks shells was littering the memorial grounds.

But the Park Service is bringing the fireworks back at the request of Gov. Kristi Noem and President Donald Trump. The president has said he plans to attend.

Despite the threat of COVID-19, neither the Park Service nor state government has announced a plan to manage attendance. McGee-Ballinger, the Rushmore spokeswoman, said an announcement is planned soon.