From left, South Dakota Game, Fish & Park’s Commissioners Jon Locken, Scott Phillips and Gary Jensen discuss state park entrance and camping fees Thursday (Oct. 3) at the GF&P Commissioners meeting in Chamberlain.

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Park’s commission members approved increasing camping and park entrance fees for 2020, in response to revenue shortfalls caused in part to the state’s disastrous weather and flooding conditions this year, according to The Daily Republic.

The approval came during Thursday (Oct. 3) night’s meeting in Chamberlain. The decision will also go before the legislature’s Rules Review Committee at a later date.

Should the proposed change get final approval, the annual park pass will increase from $30 to $36, and the daily park pass will increase from $6 to $8. In addition, the seven-day vehicle pass for Custer State Park will increase from $10 to $20, and the new camping fees will range from $20, while camping cabins would cost $55.

Lastly, the commission drafted a new statewide fee of $15 for tent-only campsites without electricity.

The commissioners anticipate the spike in prices to generate about $3 million in additional revenue. First-year Parks and Recreation Director Scott Simpson cautioned the panel to reconsider, noting it would put him in a tough spot before he reaches his one-year mark.

“The fee increase will reduce our users,” Simpson said. “We’re just not going to get caught up with this increase.”

Simpson provided a brief glimpse of just how extensive the weather damage was for the some of the state’s campgrounds and recreation areas.

“This year’s weather was a nightmare for our parks and recreation areas,” Simpson said. “Some campgrounds were completely underwater a couple of different times this year.”

Commissioner Scott Phillips encouraged Simpson to continue informing the public about what changes and new features the state recreation areas and campgrounds have to offer.

Looking ahead to this winter and beyond, Simpson said an average weather year will likely cause significant challenges and potential damages to the campgrounds and recreational areas.

“It’s going to be a tough road ahead, and there are many roads that still need to be repaired, let alone the campgrounds,” he said.

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