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Concerns Expressed At Public Meeting About Mount Rushmore Fireworks

Seth Tupper/SDPB

About 50 people showed up at a public meeting Monday on the possible return of fireworks to Mount Rushmore, and many expressed concerns. 

Fireworks shows were held each year around the Fourth of July from 1998 to 2009 at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. But the National Park Service stopped the shows after that. The shows were starting fires, polluting water and spreading debris from exploded fireworks shells

Some of that evidence was on display Monday at the Outdoor Campus in Rapid City. It was the first of three public meetings hosted by the National Park Service on a draft environmental assessment about bringing fireworks back to Mount Rushmore this July 3. 

One of the people at Monday’s meeting was Sharlene Mitchell of Rapid City. 

“And just walking through here now and seeing the pictures of the debris that’s left over, the impact on our water, the quality, I just don’t think it’s necessary,” Mitchell said. “I really don’t believe that’s what Mount Rushmore stands for, is destroying the environment.” 

Another person at the meeting was Eileen Fleishacker, who works as a tour guide in the Black Hills.  

“I think that right now is a little premature to make any kind of a decision about what’s going to happen, because there are so many variables going on in the world, with the stock market today losing 2,000 points, the coronavirus, we have no idea what our tourist season is going to end up being,” Fleischacker said. 

The concern about a rushed process is shared by Tammy Hunsaker. She owns a business in Keystone and said the town was overwhelmed by past fireworks shows at Mount Rushmore that attracted crowds in the tens of thousands. 

“If we’re looking at having to bring in porta-potties and extra water and things, that’s a huge financial burden to these little communities that don’t have budgets for that,” Hunsaker said. “And so learning how are we going to pay for those things, where’s that money going to come from – those are questions that nobody can answer for us.” 

The Park Service will decide soon whether to allow the fireworks. President Trump and Gov. Kristi Noem have both said they want the show to happen. 

The second public meeting on the plan was Tuesday evening in Custer, and the third is from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Community Center in Keystone

Written public comments about the plan may be submitted online until March 30. 

Seth supervises SDPB's beat reporters and newscast team. He works at SDPB's Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.
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