With Governor Daugaard including $2.5 million in his budget for the plan, Game Fish and Parks is rolling ahead with the groundwork for turning part of Spearfish Canyon into a state park. At Tuesday’s Lawrence County Commission meeting, GF&P parks director Katie Ceroll and District #14 park supervisor Shannon Percy explained that the feds still need to approve the land swap, the Legislature still has to designate Canyon land as a state park, and GF&P needs to bring in consultants and get public input.
The big questions Lawrence County folks have are where the park would be:
The park would consist of approximately 1,600 acres at the upper portion of Spearfish Canyon and up Little Spearfish Canyon. It would run from Savoy to just beyond the Savoy Pond, and six miles up Little Spearfish Canyon to include Roughlock Falls, already a state-owned area, and the Rod and Gun and Timon campgrounds. It would also consist of areas around Spearfish Canyon Lodge, the Latchstring Inn, both of which are privately owned and would not be controlled by the state, Spearfish Falls and the ‘76 Trail, both of which are owned by the state [Jaci Conrad Pearson, “State Officials Proceed with Master Plan for Proposed Spearfish Canyon State Park,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2016.12.15].
…and where we’ll need a park sticker:
“It is open to the public now not for a fee,” [Commissioner Richard] Sleep said. “How are you going to change all that?”
“The fee question has come up again and again in conversations,” Ceroll said. “There won’t be a fee to drive that scenic byway, but we have talked about other fees that could be there … I think we need to look at the types of management costs and what needs to be done … making sure there are toilets, the correct restroom facilities and balancing that with what it takes to manage it all.”
Percy said, that for example, there are roughly 50 weddings at Roughlock Falls during the Rally, on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as other weddings held there throughout the year.
“That might be an area in which we charge fees,” Ceroll said [Conrad Pearson, 2016.12.15].
Supervisor Percy told the commission that the area is “being loved to death.” I understand that challenge: I love Spearfish Canyon, the trails, the falls, the views, and I don’t want to lose access to that area… but I also don’t want my access, multiplied by tens of thousands of other Canyon lovers, to result in harming the place I love. If we want to keep Canyon access free and keep the Canyon worth visiting, we need to tread lightly and give GF&P and the U.S. Forest Service the resources they need to protect the area. If we don’t want fees, are we willing to appropriate sales tax dollars (sales tax, the only way to tap all the visitors) to maintain the walkways and outhouses at Roughlock Falls? Is it enough to charge for fishing licenses and group-event permits?
Or should we just leave Spearfish Canyon as it is and block the state from turning the Canyon into another public moneymaker?