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SD parks and rec areas could see record camping

RAPID CITY (AP) -- South Dakota could see a record amount of camping in parks and recreation areas this year, Parks Director Doug Hofer said.

A prolonged winter set back visitation but the trend appears to be turning with the weather. Nearly all of the 4,190 campsites at state parks and recreation areas were filled over the Memorial Day weekend, the Rapid City Journal reported.

"Some years April can be pretty good for us. That was the case last year, when we had outstanding weather and people got out early," Hofer said. "This year we got snowstorm after snowstorm in April. But things are really taking off now."

Camping reservations for the months ahead are encouraging, according to Hofer.

"The summer reservations are tracking very close to and maybe slightly ahead of last year's record for camping units," he said.

South Dakota parks and recreation areas recorded 270,000 camping units in 2012. A camping unit is one campsite filled for one night.

Hofer said dealing with difficult weather is part of life in South Dakota -- for park visitors and managers. The open-house weekend at state parks and recreation areas May 17-19 was "a mixed bag" of weather conditions, he said.

"We're used to that kind of mix in the weather," he said. "The wind blew pretty hard in the eastern part of the state and there was some rain. But we had a lot of activities that were well-attended."