A basic increase of $2 in most daily camping fees at South Dakota state parks is being recommended by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
The commission accepted the recommendation of the department staff at a meeting Thursday (Oct. 4) in Pierre. The fees are scheduled for a public hearing Nov. 1 and 2 in Gettysburg and could be finalized by the commission after the hearing, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
“The increases we’re proposing are basically inflationary increases,” said Doug Hofer, director of the department’s Division of Parks and Recreation. Camping fees last were increased in 1995, department records show. The fees for camping cabins last were boosted in 2001.
The proposal would increase the basic campground fee from $6 per night to $8.
The fee for a modern campground would climb to $10, as would the fee at an equestrian campground. If the increases are approved, it would cost $12 per night at a preferred campground and $14 at a prime campground. Each of those is $2 more than the current charge.
“We’re affected by inflation like every other operation, and it’s just time to make some adjustments and make sure our budget needs are met and, most importantly, we can continue to provide good quality services in the park system for the people we serve,” Hofer said.
The cost of using a camping cabin would go up $3 a night, from $32 to $35. In three areas – Lewis and Clark, Chief White Crane and Pierson Ranch – the camping cabin fees would increase from $37 to $40 per night.
The increases are driven in part by attempts to upgrade the park reservation system, said Matt Snyder, an assistant to Hofer. One of the big changes is to allow the use of credit cards in the system.
“Right now, we have 59 state parks throughout South Dakota, and there are probably three where we currently allow debit cards or credit cards to be accepted at our entrance stations,” Snyder said.
“When you look at a business that’s doing over $8 million in revenue, and they do it all in cash or checks, it’s time to modernize our system,” he said.
The agency also will move to “real time” in reservations.
Now, there’s a cutoff date. Snyder said if a person were camping at a park site one night and wanted to stay longer, “We’re basically going to be looking at you and saying call and make a reservation. In our mind, that’s not the best customer service we can offer our users and our guests. What this system is going to allow us to do is basically go online right there, right at the entrance station when these people come in, and make that reservation for them.”
Hofer told the commission that camping at the state parks has increased during the past 11 years.
The department said the state’s daily camping fee for a site without electricity compares with $10 in North Dakota, $11 in Iowa, $15 to $18 in Minnesota, $11 to $13 in Nebraska, $12 in Montana, and $6 for residents and $12 for nonresidents in Wyoming.