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Work on master plan continues for canyon

PIERRE -- While the land exchange that was necessary for a Spearfish Canyon state park now is dead, state officials continue to proceed on stewardship and management planning for the highly used and much treasured piece of the Black Hills.

PIERRE - While the land exchange that was necessary for a Spearfish Canyon state park now is dead, state officials continue to proceed on stewardship and management planning for the highly used and much treasured piece of the Black Hills.

The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission received a report Friday from state parks director Katie Ceroll about what happens next, after the governor pulled his funding request to the Legislature that would have paid for the 1,480-acre exchange.

"Another non-controversial issue?" commissioner Barry Jensen of White River said as Ceroll prepared to start.

"Cor-rect," she replied.

There's still the future of Bismarck Lake to consider, and the canyon's two waterfalls - Spearfish and Roughlock - as well as the Savoy fishing area that GF&P already manages.

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The point Ceroll made is recreational use continues rising. Her schedule still calls for a master plan to be completed by September even though the state park concept is off the table.

There is a steady schedule of volunteer committee meetings and public meetings during the next six months. In April a consultant will review what's been learned and the possible scenarios. May will see a meeting on the canyon and a meeting on Bismarck Lake. In August would come a public-comment period.

Commissioner Gary Jensen, of Rapid City, asked what the commission's role would be. Secretary Kelly Hepler said the department would bring the plan to the commission. He said there would be pieces for the various sites.

"I think it's going to be a collaboration," Hepler said.

Commissioner Scott Phillips, of rural New Underwood, said the first meeting Jan. 26 was "pretty negative." He said he senses there's been somewhat of a softening of public opinion since then.

Ceroll replied, "There's a resource that's sensitive, is being loved." Preserving the resource is at the core, she said. "And that core does resonate," she said.

Commissioner Paul Dennert, of Columbia, asked how the master planning can proceed after the funding legislation was set aside. She said there are "multiple possibilities."

Dennert wondered if Bismarck Lake could be attached. "I think it would be wise to move ahead with that at a faster clip if we're held up on the canyon," Dennert said.

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"I think we're in a pause mode," Ceroll responded. The pause allows time for planning in response to trends. "That's good for planning," she said.

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