Gov. Dennis Daugaard didn’t miss a beat today when he sent a letter to the dirrector of the National Park Service offering to take over operation of the 64-site Elk Mountain campground in Wind Cave National Park. His proposal suggests the state Game, Fish and Parks Department could run it. The National Park Service otherwise plans to close it for all of 2013 because of the federal budget sequestration. More than 270,000 campers used GFP’s parks and recreation areas in 2012. And Doug Hofer, director for the state Division of Parks and Recreation, never seems to pass up an opportunity to expand the GFP network. South Dakota has a positive record in converting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer sites along the Missouri River as part of the federal transfer of corp shorelands a decade ago to South Dakota and two tribal governments. Daugaard said 6,600 people used Elk Mountain campground last year — a fact he says indicates GFP could turn a profit running the site this year.
Taking this another step, you have to wonder if the National Park Service might be better off making some of its sites available to the state governments in which they are located. The park service has been frustrated in its budgets for many years. If a state government can effectively manage a site and be responsible for its maintenance and repair as part of the contract, that would mean the park service could concentrate its resources on sites that probably should remain in federal control as part of protecting the national interest. The NPS could keep Yellowstone, for example, and contract Wind Cave and Jewel Cave to the South Dakota GFP.
Make some lemonade out of these lemons?