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Opposition to Spearfish park remains strong even without fee

SPEARFISH (AP) -- Opposition to a proposed state park in Spearfish Canyon remains strong even after Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced that no entrance fees would be charged.

SPEARFISH (AP) - Opposition to a proposed state park in Spearfish Canyon remains strong even after Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced that no entrance fees would be charged.

About 400 people gathered Thursday at a public hearing on the idea, which requires the transfer of 1,400 acres of the canyon from federal to state stewardship. Nearly all were opposed.

It was the first public input session hosted by South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks, and may have been the most vocal resistance yet to the creation of the state park. Their concerns have been heard by Republican lawmakers in both chambers who said a bill to move the land exchange forward has little support.

"People don't seem to be clamoring for it," Senate Majority Leader Blake Curd of Sioux Falls told the Rapid City Journal.

At a news conference earlier Thursday to announce that no entrance fees would be charged, Gov. Dennis Daugaard called the fees the biggest objection most people had. But many people voiced other concerns at the meeting in Spearfish.

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"Let the governor know that it's not true that nobody is opposed to the land exchange," said Rick Hudson of Custer. "Don't believe half of what the state tells you. Just say no. They're counting on us to not stay involved. If they had asked us to begin with, they could have saved a lot of time and money. Why didn't they ask us? They don't care."

Daugaard first proposed the idea last year to turn 1,600 acres of 50,000-acre wilderness into a state park. More than 1,400 acres of that land must come from a land swap between the National Forest Service in return for pieces of state-owned grasslands east of Rapid City. The state is waiting on approval from Congress and the Legislature before moving forward with the exchange.

"I would like to see the process slowed down," said Paul Horsted of Custer. "I feel like the Black Hills National Forest is doing a great job. It's one of those cases of if it's not broke why fix it?"

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