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New numbers show South Dakota's pandemic surge in outdoor activities has slowed

Boaters and anglers take to Lake Oahe for some summer fun.

A pandemic-related surge in outdoor activities has slowed. Park visits and license sales around the state are down after record-breaking numbers earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State park visits are down 11 percent from 2021, with the state's biggest park, Custer, dipping 13 percent and East River's Lewis & Clark down 18 percent.

However, park visits are still up compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019. And according to Director of Parks and Recreation Scott Simpson, the dip in park visitations is not alarming.

“A little concerning, right, anytime you see a number go backward," Simpson said. "But when you look a little further into the numbers, you see that we're still well above what our averages are for June over a five-year average."

Simpson said 2022 state park revenue is down about 3 percent.

Hunting and fishing license sales are also down — about 128,000 resident licenses have sold this year, compared to about 140,000 by this time in 2021 and 153,000 during the same period in 2020.

About 204,000 out-of-staters bought licenses so far this year, compared to about 220,000 by the same time in 2021.

Joshua is the business and economics reporter with SDPB News.