South Dakota parks officials said Thursday (Oct. 9) they plan to add about 230 campsites at state parks in the next few years in an attempt to keep up with a growing demand, the Associated Press reports.
On average, more than 80% of the campsites at state parks are filled during summer weekends, and some of the most popular campgrounds are consistently full on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Bob Schneider told the state Game, Fish & Parks Commission.
Schneider, development manager for the state Division of Parks and Recreation, said the state park system had 2,500 campsites in 1999, and that number has grown to 3,650, an increase of about 45%.
Some of the new campsites were added through construction, but 830 were gained through the transfer to ythe state of U.S. Corps of Engineers sites along the Missouri River.
Schneider said the parks division is building 22 new modern campsites at Roy Lake and five modern campsites at Lake Cochrane this year. The Game, Fish and Parks Department is seeking funds in next year’s state budget to put 50 modern and 30 primitive campsites at Belle Fourche Reservoir, 18 modern sites at Pickerel Lake and 25 modern sites at Pelican Lake, he said.
Planning also is under way to eventually add 80 modern camping sites at Oakwood Lake, Schneider said.
State Parks Director Doug Hofer said the campsite shortage is most acute in the Sioux Falls area, but parks in that area have no land available for adding new camping sites.
Game, Fish & Parks Commission Chairman Tim Kessler said the state may need to look at increasing camping fees or finding other ways to get money to buy land for camping areas in the next decade.
Kessler said it’s good that camping is growing in popularity, but he said problems caused by a shortage of campsites will grow.
“We are going to be in a terrible mess here because the Baby Boomers are buying RV’s,” Kessler said.
Schneider said campground occupancy rates are very high in most parts of South Dakota. The average is dragged down by the fact that only about half the sites along lakes Oahe and Sharpe are filled on summer weekends.
The lack of campers on Lake Oahe is probably because of problems with walleye fishing, Schneider said. The reservoir has had many small walleyes but few big fish because of a crash in the baitfish population in recent years. Biologists, however, say the fishery is improving as the baitfish population recovers.