Gov. Kristi Noem relocates, cuts funding in half for Custer State Park camping project

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Gov. Kristi Noem isn't giving up on plans to add camping capacity in Custer State Park.

But the size and scope of the $10-million, 176-campsite proposal coming from the governor's office and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is now being scaled back after it became clear this week there wasn't Legislative support for the project.

Following a closed-door meeting between Noem and GFP officials the day prior, the administration shared a retooled plan with lawmakers Wednesday that cuts the cost of the project in half, reduces the number of proposed campsites to 66 and relocates the campsite away from Wildlife Loop Road. The size of the proposed site is also reduced from 75 acres to 50 acres.

More: Gov. Kristi Noem's $10 million Custer State Park campground project 'going down in flames'

A document released Wednesday by Game, Fish and Park shows a new location for proposed campsites at Custer State Park near Stockade Lake.
A document released Wednesday by Game, Fish and Park shows a new location for proposed campsites at Custer State Park near Stockade Lake.

The modifications to the project aim to address heavy opposition from the public and Legislature over wildlife and traffic concerns. They also attempt to alleviate outcry over the state growing its share of the Black Hills camping market.

"This proposed site does not affect elk migration range," reads literature provided to Black Hills-area lawmakers Wednesday. "There are no known unique habitats or endangered species identified in the new location."

Initially, Noem's plans called for a new campground in an area along WIldlife Loop Road known as Barnes Canyon. However, the adjusted plan places the new camping facilities on the west edge of the park near Stockade Lake along U.S. Highway 16A.

Lawmakers from the area say they're pleased to see the proposed changes coming from the governor's office, but it might not be enough to earn their enthusiastic support.

Low resolution copy of a map illustrating the 175 proposed campsites and accompanying road system Gov. Kristi Noem hopes to construct in Custer State Park. The proposed project is estimated to cost $9.9 million.
Low resolution copy of a map illustrating the 175 proposed campsites and accompanying road system Gov. Kristi Noem hopes to construct in Custer State Park. The proposed project is estimated to cost $9.9 million.

Rep. Trish Ladner, R-Hot Springs, said she's not entirely sure if they're enough to get her behind the project, but she's grateful the administration is open to compromise.

"If this does go through, I'm glad it's not in a pristine area," Ladner said. "But I'm excited to see they've considered making these changes."

Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, still isn't a fan. She said while the new location does address concerns she had about disturbing elk and buffalo herds in the park, any additional camping in the park is in direct competition with the private sector.

Custer State Park Sunday, March 17, in Custer.
Custer State Park Sunday, March 17, in Custer.

"This change doesn’t address the primary concerns of the state competing with the private sector,” she said. “The government should stay out of it, because it can be handled there.”

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota Gov. Noem scales down Custer State Park camping project

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