Caroline Woods isn’t the only traditional conservative feeling betrayed by Governor Kristi Noem. Private campground owners in the Black Hills say Governor Noem is threatening their livelihood with her proposal to spend $9.89 million to put 50% more campgrounds in Custer State Park:
Steve Saint owns Fort Welikit Family Campground, which is just south of the state park. He’s also the president of the South Dakota Campground Owners Association.
He says the campground expansion sounds good while outdoor tourism is high during the pandemic. Saint expects tourism to slow down in five years. He says that slowdown will negatively affect private campgrounds in the area, not the park.
“The private campgrounds are stepping up to handle the influx,” Saint says. “The state park doesn’t need to. Because in five years that state park is still going to be full and I’m going to have empty sites.
“How many campgrounds are going to go under because the state, in five years, finally when things start slowing down—we have direct competition?” Saint adds. “How many campgrounds are going to go out of business because they’re not getting customers because they’re all going to Custer State Park?” [Lee Strubinger, “Private Campground Owner Worried About Custer State Park Campsite Expansion Plan,” SDPB Radio, 2022.01.07]
Some campground owners are saying Noem is betraying them and her professed free-market principles:
…several individual campground owners told the Argus Leader last week they feel betrayed by Noem’s proposal.
Many accused the governor of hypocrisy for regularly championing free market virtues while pushing to increase state government’s share of the Black Hills campground market.
“We just feel we can’t compete against the financial might of state government,’ said Bill Paterson, owner of the Big Pine Campground about a mile southwest of the city of Custer. “We always thought she was a governor who would be on the side of small business, but frankly, it’s standing on the throats of small business.”
Paterson said he’d prefer those dollars be invested standing up season workforce housing that would aid the private campgrounds in the Black Hills [Joe Sneve, “Gov. Noem’s $10M Campground Plan Raises Traffic, Wildlife Concerns in Custer State Park,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.01.18].
Note: these free marketeers still want socialism, but only socialism that subsidizes their private profit… in which case, they align perfectly with Kristi Noem’s principles.
Before we debate who should get to build and make money on campgrounds in the Black Hills, we perhaps should consider whether it is wise to add any more campsites in the Black Hills. There’s already plenty of room to go camping in the Black Hills: park at the trailhead, strap on a pack, hike in a few miles, and you can camp for free out in the wilderness of the Black Hills National Forest. The Black Hills National Forest is a public treasure, properly protected by government and allocated by socialism to all of us for gentle use. Do we really want any actor, public or private, to chop down more trees and lay more pavement and electrical lines and latrines for a bunch of big RVs that run their generators and AC all night and make the woods sound like just another noisy town?