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GF&P Advancing Spearfish Canyon Park Plan: Fee for Roughlock Falls?

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:

Roughlock Falls—yeah, I can see wanting to get married there. Photo by CAH, September 2015.
Roughlock Falls—yeah, I can see wanting to get married there. But do we put the park sticker on the bride’s veil? Photo by CAH, September 2015.

“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?


  1. Darin Larson 2016-12-16 08:14

    So we are going to spend $2.5 million and then have ongoing costs that will have to come out of our general fund or they will have to raise fees, all so the state can take this land over?

    They just told us that they couldn’t find $5 million for IM22 and that they might have to take the money out of education funding for it, but they have $2.5 million plus ongoing expenses to take on somebody’s pet project?

    Were you lying then or are you lying now, Governor?

  2. Darin Larson 2016-12-16 08:24

    PS When the governor’s proposed budget for education provides a 1% increase for K-12 education, I don’t think we should be spending any money on pet projects and other BS. If we are spending only 1% more on education, then we will fall further behind in education funding each year. If you can’t find at least 3% more for education considering all of the cost increases that schools see each year, including healthcare costs, we shouldn’t be spending a dime on any new initiatives in other areas. Once again, we see the priorities of this administration.

  3. JonD 2016-12-16 09:12

    Let us not forget that one of the key points of this plan is expensive state-funded upgrades to the Savoy businesses partially owned by Daugaard supporter Stan Adelstein. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this very well could be the main reason for the idea in the first place.

  4. Loren 2016-12-16 10:08

    And, remember, this would be a FEE, not a TAX, because Republicans never raise your taxes! Only Democrats are tax/spend!

  5. Porter Lansing IV 2016-12-16 10:46

    South Dakota people are so damn cheap that nothing gets built but complaints. If you taxed negativity you’d be one of the richest states in USA. You really do have to spend money to make money. Or you can just sit on it and worry some “out of state group” is going to try to tell you what to do. Geeez. Initiate a state income tax, build a bunch of state parks and people will come to see your nice new things and spend vacation money.

  6. Bill Dithmer 2016-12-16 11:11

    I’m against the deal just because gf&p have been wrong so many times.

    The most equitable way would be to leave that offer fall off the table and declare the falls a learning center. That way Pittman-Robertson  could cover the cost.

    But then again, that would be to simple.

    The Blindman

  7. jerry 2016-12-16 12:00

    I agree with Blindman. This should be left as it is and call it a learning center. Now, as this was taken from the Indians and is now being taken from the Whites, what say we all get together and make a ballot petition to put it to public vote statewide. In the meantime, while we wait for the vote, slap a moratorium on any further development. Maybe even a Constitutional Amendment declaring “Hands Off”

  8. TJL 2016-12-16 20:40

    Let us block it..Where do we begin?

  9. John W. 2016-12-19 15:27

    “All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.”
    ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River
    “Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
    ― Aldo Leopold
    For those that do not know Aldo Leopold, he is known, along with Teddy Roosevelt, as the Father of Wildlife Conservation. These quotes are from two of his literary works that use to heavily influence and inform State and Federal Conservation agencies that sought to understand and promote resource conservation and ecological sustainability in our country…….. Politicians and capitalists have seen to it that the wisdom and reality of “A Sand County Almanac” have been strapped to their death bed. Speaking from experience and direct familiarity with the agency selling this farce, I will say with force that this is the most out of control, self serving, impractical and disingenuous agency in State Government. The growth and reach of this organization in the last 10 years is unbelievable and what the general public receives in return for all that growth is less resource value at greater expense, than what many of us enjoyed even as little as 10 years ago. Slowly but surely, we’re being crowded into institutionalized recreation and entertainment by a government that has no clue what it’s doing or why.
    In spite of the Governor’s statement that “we need to protect these places” and Parks Division’s limp wristed justifications for it’s plans, this park can not and will not protect the natural assets of the Spearfish Canyon system. To the contrary, it will accomplish precisely what Leopold says in the first quote. Right now, the Canyon supports individual, dispersed and diverse recreation at little ecological or economic cost and the US Forest Service is doing as good a job as it can (considering the demands of the Taylor Grazing Act and “get out the cut” timber management mandated by congress) to preserve the natural features and ecological functions of the Canyon system. Sorry, but South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has proven, over and over again, that they can’t and won’t manage a system for anything except for concentrated, organized recreation that simply invites damage to land and water at increased expense and trouble for those paying the bills. That is their legacy and the taxpayer is and always will be the one to pay the bills for that errant extravagance. State government says we can “protect” these places! The statement assumes that they aren’t being protected now. The reality is that those places don’t need protection from the random recreational interests of a local or visitor population. What they need protection from is commercialized land use such as grazing, logging and concentrated tourism traffic. This governor appears to be desirous of building monuments to himself and there should be no question in anyone’s mind that commercialism, and tourism development at the expense of the landscape is the primary motivator behind this. This project has “economic development” branded all over it no differently than what has happened to Custer State Park in recent years with new visitor centers and other wildland destroying projects that favor only one variety of outdoor interest.

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