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Early cold hurts state parks

South Dakota’s annual park entrance sticker sales dropped 2 percent this year, but total overall revenue from state parks and recreation areas increased by about $832,000.

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Bob Schneider, assistant director of the Game, Fish and Parks’ Division of Parks and Recreation, said statewide camping permits were up 3.1 percent and daily park entrance stickers were up by nearly 1 percent. Schneider said the camping season is nearly complete as about 97 percent of usage occurs by Oct. 1.

“This is positive and was a good year given how late it got started with the weather,” Schneider said. “We’re really pleased with the year.”

Schneider attributed the drop in annual park entrance stickers from 97,000 in 2012 to 95,000 this year to a cold, wet spring and a hike in the fee from $28 to $30.

Daily park entrance stickers went from 307,000 in 2012 to 310,000 this year, and there were 270,000 camping permits sold this year compared to 262,000 last year. The rise in both daily park stickers and camping permits made up for the decline in annual stickers.

“Normally, we sell a lot of annuals early in the year,” Schneider said. “People are pumped up, they’re ready to go and want to camp for the year. If you go back to 2012, we didn’t have much of a winter. It was 80 degrees in March. People were buying licenses like mad.

“You go forward to 2013, the lakes were all frozen up north in May and it was still the dead of winter and they weren’t buying park licenses. By the time things started thawing out and got good, it was pushing Memorial Day, and by that time, people were wondering what the rest of the year would be like.”

Schneider also noted revenue was up because camping reservations can now be made one year in advance from the date of reservation. Previously, reservations couldn’t be made until Jan. 1 of the same year of the reservation. That means revenue toward next year’s camping reservations that are made in 2013 will be on this year’s books.

Revenue this year jumped to $11,866,000, up from $11,034,000 last year. Schneider said the state expected about $200,000 in increased revenue because of the annual camping fee increase and the change in guidelines to setting camping reservations.